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We Had a Secret Nuclear Weapons Plant Near a Major American City? Yeah, One of the Most Contaminated Sites in America

A new book reveals the truth about a plutonium factory that hardly anyone knew existed.

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BJ: The class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 13,000 residents living around Rocky Flats, which took almost 20 years to wind its way through the courts, addressed the impact of nuclear contamination on property values but not on health?

KI: Correct. We won. I'm not part of that lawsuit. My parents sold their house just outside of that parameter. But my family and I followed it very closely obviously. But on February 14, 2006, we won, and then that was eventually overturned. Rockwell appealed and it was overturned. It's currently under consideration by the Supreme Court actually. It looks they may decide this week whether or not they're going to take it.

[Days later, the Supreme Court – without comment – rejected the landowners' appeal which threw out the Colorado jury's 2006 verdict in their favor. The Obama administration sided with Dow Chemical and Rockwell International in supporting this decision.]

When the lawsuit first started out, enough people had gotten sick and died and they felt that their illnesses were connected to Rocky Flats, so they wanted it to be about health issues. But they were unable to get that through, so they went forward in terms of property values.

There has never been health testing or medical monitoring for people living near Rocky Flats. There have been various studies over the years, which I talk about in the book. It's very interesting to look at who's funding what study to see what kind of results they come up with. But there's never been any actual health testing or medical monitoring of people who grew up near Rocky Flats or live near Rocky Flats.

BJ: Can you talk about the historic yet relatively little known FBI and EPA raid on Rocky Flats?

KI: There was a raid by the FBI and EPA in June of 1989. I think it's the only time in history in this country that two government agencies raided another. That led to a 21-month grand jury investigation, which was scuttled eventually. The grand jurors wanted to indict officials from Rockwell and the Department of Energy. Instead, a deal was cut with Rockwell. They paid a fine and plead guilty to some criminal and environmental charges, but it was minimal. And the jurors were infuriated because they wanted not only to have indictments for officials with the Department of Energy and Rockwell, but they also wanted people living around the plant and people living in Colorado to understand exactly what had been going on at Rocky Flats and the fact that this is all ongoing.

There were two shocking charges as part of that trial. One was that they were burning waste in an incinerator out there -- this was radioactive and toxic waste – and it had been going on for decades. They were just starting to come under environmental regulation and that incinerator was supposed to be shut down. The charge was that it wasn't shut down and the evidence shows that it most likely was not shut down. So there was this ongoing incineration of radioactive waste that was happening.

The other thing was that there was secret dumping of poison into waste ponds that were also supposed to be closed. Those were the two charges that were not prosecuted in this deal that was cut with Rockwell. Then of course the grand jurors were infuriated and they wrote their own grand jury report. And that was sealed by the judge and remains sealed to the present day.

BJ: Portions of that report were leaked to some members of the press. Does anyone really know how much of what they wrote was leaked?

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