Rocky Flats Right to Know


Rocky Flats Right to Know is an organization devoted to educating the public about Rocky Flats. Rocky Flats was a nuclear weapons plant that produced plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs from the early 1950s to 1989. The Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge (sometimes mistakenly called the Rocky Mountain National Wildlife Refuge) was the buffer zone surrounding the plant, and has had no cleanup. The last testing was in 2004. Weapons-grade plutonium is present on the Wildlife Refuge, and poses a clear danger. There is insufficient signage around the former nuclear weapons plant informing the public of the history and current status of the site.

Although there was a ~$7 billion cleanup of Rocky Flats completed in 2006, this cleanup occurred where the nuclear weapons plant manufactured the plutonium triggers. This remains an active Nuclear Superfund Site. The buffer zone for the plant, now known as Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, was transferred to US Fish and Wildlife to manage. Residual contaminants remain. Women and children are especially susceptible to these contaminants.


Rocky Flats History

Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant produced plutonium triggers for every nuclear weapon in the United States Arsenal. During the years the plant operated, about 70,000 nuclear triggers were produced. Each trigger contained enough plutonium to kill every human on the planet, if dispersed and inhaled, ingested or otherwise taken inside the body.


In 1989, the plant was raided by the FBI and EPA, and numerous violations were found. A Grand Jury Investigation followed, but justice was not served. The jury was dismissed and the evidence sealed. Rockwell, which managed the plant for the DOE (Department of Energy), was given a fine about that of their bonus.


Following the raid, the plant ceased production and plans to close the plant began. The original estimate for cleanup was 70 years and $36 billion dollars. An abbreviated cleanup was completed in about 10 years at the cost of about $7 billion dollars. Many contaminants were left in place with a few feet of clean dirt covering the waste. 


Rocky Flats Today

The cleanup occurred where the plant manufactured nuclear weapons.* This area is called the Central Operable Unit, or COU. It remains a Superfund site today, with many full-time employees monitoring the buried plutonium, americium, and other toxic substances. The Department of Energy (DOE) calls it Rocky Flats Legacy Management (RFLMA "riff-la-ma") The public is often told to refer to Rocky Flats Stewardship Council website for information about Rocky Flats. While much information can be found there, the reader should be aware that this is primarily a Department of Energy funded site.


The area shown in green on the map above is now called the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. It was the buffer zone for the plant, the Peripheral Operable Unit, or POU. The DOE formerly stated the POU should remain off limits to the public, but instead it was transferred to US Fish and Wildlife in 2006 after the testing done by the DOE showed the land to be safe. There has been no testing in the past decade that proves Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge to be safe for recreation. There has been no testing of the refuge since the massive floods of 2013.


*The mayor of Arvada said, "They didn't manufacture nuclear weapons there, just the triggers." Each of the plutonium triggers is a bomb itself, comparable to the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in World War II, which killed approximately 75,000 civilians.