The decommissioning of America’s Rocky Flats facility and the disposal of resulting waste was the main factor in a four-tonne reduction in US plutonium stocks over the last 15 years.
From its pioneering nuclear energy research as well as an extensive weapons program, the USA counts over 95 tonnes of plutonium stored in various forms at nine sites across the country. The bulk of this came from Hanford, where nine reactors produced 67.4 tonnes, and from Savannah River, where five reactors made another 36.1 tonnes of plutonium.
The inventory information comes from an update to a landmark report, The United States Plutonium Balance, 1944-1996. Ordered by President Bill Clinton, that publication was aimed at demonstrating transparency. A new version released at the end of last month updated the figures to 2009, and revealed that the total amount of plutonium (more…)
For years, people living around the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant wondered if the secret operations at that facility could somehow be endangering the health of people and animals living nearby.
And the FBI’s spectacular dawn raid of Rocky Flats in June 1989, certainly didn’t do much for property values.
In 1990, property owners filed a class-action suit against the operators of Rocky Flats, charging that the plant had affected both the health and welfare of nearby residents. By the time Merilyn Cook, et al., vs. Rockwell International Corporation and Dow Chemical finally went to trial in U.S. District Judge John Kane’s courtroom in late 2005, more than 12,000 people had signed onto the class-action suit (more…)
By Bob Drummond on June 25, 2012
Property owners seeking damages for radioactive contamination from Colorado’s Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant have to start over, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider reinstating a $926 million judgment in their 22-year-old lawsuit.
The high court today, without comment, rejected the landowners’ challenge to a federal appeals court ruling, which threw out a jury’s verdict and sent the case back for a new trial.
The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the trial judge mistakenly ruled that owners of more than 15,000 nearby parcels only had to show that plutonium from the plant was found on their land and hurt property values. A federal law governing liability from nuclear incidents requires additional proof that leaks of radioactive material actually damaged property, hindered its use or caused bodily injuries, the appeals court ruled.
“A landowner whose property is devalued because of plutonium contamination has suffered both an invasion of his property and genuine, immediate economic harm,” the property holders said (more…)
By LeRoy Moore, PhD, Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, June 2010
A dozen reasons why the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should remain closed to the public
After completion of the “cleanup” of the 6,500-acre site of the defunct Rocky Flats nuclear bomb plant, about three-fourths of the site (roughly 7 square miles) was transferred from the Department of Energy to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to operate as a wildlife refuge. DOE retained 1,300 more contaminated acres (about 2 square miles) surrounded by the FWS land.
1. Long-term danger of plutonium, the contaminant of concern
Plutonium 239, the contaminant of principal concern at Rocky Flats, has a half-life of 24,110 years. It remains dangerously radioactive for more than a quarter-million years. Any quantity left in the environment poses an essentially permanent danger.
2. Plutonium’s lethal quality
The alpha radiation emitted by plutonium cannot penetrate skin. But tiny particles inhaled, ingested, or taken into the body through an open wound may lodge in the lungs or migrate to bone. For as long as it (more…)