I’m moving closer to publishing a book that will have “Nuclear Deterrence” in the title and will contain a history of the Rocky Flats Plant. (We’ll let you know when there is a new website for the project.) The new book presents information that should make everyone celebrate that Rocky Flats was key to preventing World War III. However, a recent article in the Denver Post emphasizes that critics of the plant who continue to find ways to create fear about the legacy of Rocky Flats. They argue about the risks of the site even after it was closed for about a decade ago. The article by Charlie Brennan of the Daily Camera is titled “Safe for wildlife, but what about humans?” The opening refers to a long-time activist that says the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should not be open to human access for at least 24,110 years, which is the half life of plutonium 239. People who have made a living protesting Rocky Flats and continue to warn about the dangers left behind on the site say that it “. . .should be left to animals and the wind.” One argument presented is that “We live in an area that has abundant places to enjoy wildlife and nature without going to a place like Rocky Flats.” I’ll counter that with the observation that the buffer zone for the plant is one of the few places where the unique high mountain prairie has been preserved. People who are interested should be able to see the beauty of that area safely by using the several miles of the planned trails when the refuge opens.
The good news is that enough local municipalities have contributed to the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) that will provide underpasses and trail segments. That will provide a link to the Rocky Mountain Greenway trail that will run from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to Rocky Flats and on to Rocky Mountain National Park. Enough municipalities agreed to support the project to make it a reality. Several State and Federal Agency officials have “. . .signed off on the safety of the proposed refuge. . . .” while critics continue to disagree.
Consider that many tens of thousands of people worked at the plant and many of them worked there for several decades. They worked in the industrial area that is now restricted from access. The people who worked at Rocky Flats are mostly living long lives. Walking on a trail through the area that was the buffer zone will be just as safe walking around a back yard in Boulder or a trail near Vail. Taking soil samples from the refuge should be accompanied by comparison samples from that back yard and the trail near Vail. None of us can walk anywhere, inside or out, without being exposed to the background levels of plutonium that were efficiently deposited world-wide by atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.
I’ll close with the personal comment, which I’ve made previously. I’ll be willing to take my children and grandchildren on a hiking tour of the refuge without concern for their safety. My only concern is whether I’ll be able to keep up with them. I hope my new book will adequately present the fact that the very tiny to non-existent environmental risks at the site are overwhelmed by the fact that a policy of nuclear deterrence supported by the plant prevented World War III!