Article about Safety of Rocky Flats

Nucl_Deter_Book_CvrI’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!

Vultures Circling Rocky Flats Court Settlement

The government’s agreement to pay $375 million to landowners near the Rocky Flats Plant and their attorneys for the “nuisance” created by the plant has attracted the attention of others who want to make money. I’m not an attorney, don’t even play one on television, but a recent Denver Post article led me to think it would be appropriate to send an alert to those who might be or are eligible for compensation based on the agreement

Attorneys overseeing the settlement have demanded “. .  .that a California firm stops trying to process claims on behalf of up to 15,000 affected households.” The firm was sending “.  .  unauthorized communications to class members with a false and misleading claims deadline (which required a response date of February 17.)” The settlements lead attorney, Merrill Davidoff, said that is a “.  .  .total lie.” He also said the deadline for filing a claim “…is June 1 and that claims should be completed on line at rockyflatssettelement.com.” The claim that February 17 is the deadline is “.  .  .clearly designed to instill a false sense of urgency.”

Apparently there are companies who are willing to take money due to the awardees. In the case of Rocky Flats, the companies are apparently willing to take a fee, perhaps as much of 40% of the award despite the fact that they have no legitimate roll in the process. Be careful what you sign, because the agreement might not be in your interest! A spokeswoman for the Colorado Attorney General Office said people who have been contacted by the outside firm can file a complaint at 800-222-4444 or going online to stopfraudcolorado.gov.

Twilight of the Bombs

This book by Richard Rhodes has the long subtitle, “Recent challenges, New Dangers, and Prospects for a World without Nuclear Weapons.” I was eager to read the book because of previous Rhodes books, Making the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun. I considered the author to be a diligent researcher, but was surprised to read his assessment of the down-sizing of the nuclear-weapon production “.  .  .partly in response to unilateral and negotiated arms reductions, partly because public concern had caught up with its environmentally abandoned ways. The FBI had actually raided the Department of Energy’s plutonium-production facility at Rocky Flats, in Colorado, in 1989, looking for evidence (which it found in abundance) that the DOE and Rockwell International, a contractor, had violated environmental-protection laws.” (212-213) Rhodes obviously read the headlines and didn’t bother with careful research that would have told him there were not actual violations of environmental laws. He could have learned the complicated truth about the outcome of the raid by reading my book, An Insider’s View of Rocky Flats: Urban Myths Debunked. Regardless of that major flaw, the book contains interesting information. Rhodes also mentions that “.  .  .Rocky Flats, the only facility capable of producing plutonium pits, was permanently closed.” (page 218) That statement would have been more accurate if it had said Rocky Flats had produced most of the plutonium pits for several years. Continue reading

Colorado Study of Rocky Flats and Cancer

A study of ten types of cancer in neighborhoods near the now-closed Rocky Flats Plant by the State of Colorado has, according to a Denver post article, “. .  .uncovered no evidence to conclude that contamination from the plant has caused a cancer epidemic.” “Four cancers—lung, esophagus, colorectal and prostate—were more common in some, but not all neighborhoods near Rocky Flats than in the metro area as a whole.” The first three “.  .  .could is explained by higher rates of smoking in those areas.” The elevated prostate numbers in Boulder County were consistent with “.  .  .higher-than-average prostate cancer rates in wealthy areas, possibly the result of better disease screening.  .  .  .” The summary is that the study found “.  .  .the rate of the 10 types of cancer was statistically indistinguishable from the overall city’s rate.  .  .  .”

Reaction to the announcements brought on comments from people representing a group called “Downwinders.” “When you do a ZIP code study of people who live in the place now, you’re not finding the people who might have been affected. .  .  .” This is followed by a comment “.  .  .the studies suffer, though, because they are only able to look at where people were living when they were diagnosed with cancer. People who once lived in the area but moved before being diagnosed with cancer are not included in the study data, while people newly arrived in the area are.”

I interpret the spokespeople for the “Downwinders” are saying they believe people who lived near the plant and moved away are more likely to have developed cancer than the people who continued to live near the Plant? Why would the plant be considered to have created an increased risk of cancer if moving away increased the risk while moving near the plant reduced the risk?

My answer to these curious questions is that there is little if any evidence of risks from living near Rocky Flats. The people who worked there were understandably careful about managing the dangerous chemicals they were processing because they and their families lived nearby. That fact is not important to some. They just want to know when they can get their share of “government” money after the courts determined Rocky Flats should pay damages to some nearby residents despite the fact it did not create a risk to those people but was a “nuisance.”

Controversies about Rocky Flats will continue until the possibility of money from litigation dies up. That will happen when the attention of trial lawyers moves on to more lucrative ventures and when anti-Rocky Flats critics are not longer able to attract unwarranted attention of the media. It amazes me that a place that carefully performed a vital national defense Cold War mission continues to be successfully vilified by those who have apparently have forgotten what was happening in the world when the decision was made to build the plant. I continue working on a book that I hope will serve as a reminder.

Sixth Anniversary of RockyFlatsFacts

It’s been a bit over six years ago that we launched this site with the publication of the book “An Insider’s View of Rocky Flats: Urban Myths Debunked.” My personal opinion is that the Kindle version of the book is the best because it includes pictures of plutonium ingots and burning plutonium. It’s also cheaper and doesn’t require a shipping fee! There were 27 reviews of the book the last time I looked, and the reviews reflect the controversies that still surround Rocky Flats. The average is something near four stars, but there are several very negative reviews. A one star review says simply, “Poorly written.” Another says “Political parlance!” One says the book was “obviously written by a DOE shill.” That reviewer probably didn’t actually read the book, or at least failed to notice the book was not complimentary about DOE. My personal favorites are several of the five star reviews!

I’m obliged to discuss some statistics about the website. There have been 928 postings before I add this one. The counter, which was added a couple of years after we began, has now registered about 1,750,000. (For those who prefer precision, the last time I looked it registered 1,753,006.) The postings were about even split between expressions, book reviews, and commentaries until this year. There have been few book reviews in the past several months, mostly because I’ve begun to focus on writing a new book about Rocky Flats. That book will have “Nuclear Deterrence” somewhere in the title, because I believe Rocky Flats effectively performed its mission of helping provide a nuclear stockpile large enough that World War III was prevented.

The postings continue to be submitted by RF Alum and Ponderer, who often provides a different perspective. I think I can speak for both of us that the power of freedom of speech results in an open discussion, which hopefully results in consideration of different ideas. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our politicians used that approach? I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Ponderer has been a prolific writer and publisher outside this website. She has published several books, which includes an interesting series about Mars.

This website will continue to evolve. I’ve thought we probably would begin to run out of new expressions, but that has not yet happened. I won’t hesitate to stop posting commentaries if I think there is a shortage of decent material. That hasn’t happened yet.

I’ll try to remember to keep you informed about the new Rocky Flats book. I’m convinced that people will be interested in what it says regardless of whether they worked there, protested the place, or want to know more about the Cold War. I believe in the adage that people who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. That sentence made me remember writing that President Carter told some advisors he wanted to be remembered as “a Wilson.” One of the advisors replied that he should first want to be “a Truman.” (The decision to build Rocky Flats was made during the Truman administration.)

Rocky Flats and Thyroid Cancer

The State of Colorado Department of Health has announced they intend to “. .  . study the incidence of thyroid cancer in neighborhoods around the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, after a survey backed by a community group raised concerns.” I think that such a study is completely justified, since the group, called the “Downwinders,” is alleging that there is a higher incidence of that cancer in neighborhoods near where the Plant operated.

An article in the Denver Post points out that a 1998 Colorado Department of Health “. .  . study using a statewide cancer database concluded that those near Rocky Flats didn’t suffer from cancer rates higher than people in the metro area. But that study didn’t look specifically at incidence of thyroid cancer or other rare cancers.  .  .  .  . “

I think I know why this has become an issue. An autobiography, which has many technical flaws but attracted significant readership, raises the issue of thyroid cancer in association with Rocky Flats. I need to get a copy of the book from the library, but, as I recall, the allegation is that Rocky Flats was somehow equivalent to Chernobyl. The book ignores many technical facts, and one is that youngsters in the Rocky Mountain region who drank milk were more likely to develop thyroid cancer because of radioactive iodine in fallout (accumulated in the milk) from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. One area where that was identified as more prevalent of a problem was the “Rocky Mountain West.”

I’m in favor of the study that Colorado has announced, and I predict the Downwinders will be disappointed in the results. Rocky Flats did not process radioactive iodine that is commonly associated with thyroid cancer. However, I understand there are many who continue to be influenced by the sadly flawed raid of the Rocky Flats Plant by the Justice Department in 1989 that understandably worried people who lived nearby. My reassurance to those people is simple. Those of us who worked at Rocky Flats and lived nearby with our families did everything possible to protect them and ourselves.