Science at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico is taking a back seat to safety and US national security concerns as the entire campus has been shut down following the disappearance of two top-secret computer Zip disks. In addition to putting work on everything from gene sequencing to modeling climate to protein folding analysis on hold, the shutdown is likely to further delay the opening of a planned BSL-3 laboratory on campus.

Laboratory director and retired US Navy vice admiral Pete Nanos decided on July 16 to shut down all operations—from classified weapons work to basic science research—when he said he realized an institution-wide failure to comply with procedures and regulations was the root cause for the disappearance of the disks and a July 14 laser accident that nearly blinded a 20-year-old intern.

Even the laboratory's cafeterias and exercise facility are shut down. "There is some...

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