OPINION: GUEST OPINIONS
Emily Graham: Rocky Flats is likely leaking alpha radiation
By Emily Graham
POSTED: 02/26/2019 07:12:12 PM MST
UPDATED: 02/26/2019 07:13:31 PM MST
When I was getting my undergraduate degree at University of Colorado in 2012, I took a general chemistry course. Much to the chagrin of my professor, I'm sure, I remember very little of the class except for the last segment on nuclear chemistry. I was so fascinated by the exciting way it was presented, including a story about KGB spy Aleksandr Litvinenko, who defected and joined MI6. He was killed, likely by a Russian spy, through alpha radiation poisoning.
I remember this so well, because the thought of unknowingly ingesting particles of alpha radiation in your tea was so terrifying and such a stealthy way of killing someone (definitely worthy of a James Bond movie). To demonstrate just how stealthy alpha radiation is, the professor placed an object on her desk and asked the class to imagine that it is emitting alpha radiation. She then placed a single sheet of paper over it. She said, "Now there is virtually no way to detect this radiation with a Geiger counter when it is covered even by a single sheet of paper, but if you inhale it or ingest it in any way, you will die a slow and painful death." The class was riveted.
Imagine my horror, then, when I learned that the type of radiation at Rocky Flats, a nuclear Superfund Site, is alpha radiation, emitted mainly by plutonium-239. I attended a Rocky Flats Stewardship Council meeting in early 2018 during which the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment insisted that Rocky Flats is safe, but their evidence clearly did not account for the specific type of radiation at Rocky Flats. Even in my general chemistry class I learned that you cannot detect it with a Geiger counter; it must be specially tested for in the air and soil. During this meeting I also learned that the Department of Energy's report did show elevated levels of plutonium and trichloroethylene. When they do find elevated levels, they shorten the amount of time between tests, then do a 12-month rolling average and no actual intervention to clean or block off the site. Both the CDPHE and the DOE insisted that the levels were safe, and that Rocky Flats poses no risk to the public. I didn't buy it. I don't want to go the same way the spy did. I had to find out more.
I heard of a local group called Rocky Flats Right to Know and attended a meeting. I heard stories from women who had lost babies due to rare radiation-induced birth defects. I heard the story of a mother whose son has a rare form of heart cancer; only nine cases have been documented in the United States, two of which are in a neighborhood bordering Rocky Flats. How could this all be a coincidence?
I dove deeper. There are two lawsuits against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees a national wildlife refuge at Rocky Flats — one filed by the town of Superior and one filed by environmental groups with the goal of holding government agencies accountable for accurate testing and cleanup of the site. The "buffer zone" (peripheral operating unit) around the main plant (central operating unit) is now open to the public, which violates environmental law (theNational Environmental Policy Act), especially given the lack of comprehensive and accurate testing done. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,100 years. Undoubtedly there is plutonium on the site that is still essentially leaking alpha radiation into the air and undoubtedly after the several fires and spills on the site, there is radiation in the buffer zone. But don't worry, in about 250,000 years, Rocky Flats should finally be safe.
The people are waking up. We won't allow this to continue.
Emily Graham is a graduate student at the University of Denver.
On November 28, 2018 Dr. Mark Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Jefferson County, Colorado Health Department provided his personal opinions regarding the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The event was hosted by Rocky Flats Right to Know (RFR2K) at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Arvada, Colorado.
The problem is that Plutonium emits alpha radiation, not gamma. A Geiger counter detects gamma radiation, not alpha. This young woman need to go back to the drawing board and test the soil properly.
There is Plutonium in the soil at Rocky Flats, both at the former plant site, which remains a Superfund site, and on the Refuge. No one denies this.
Contact Your Council Member: Deny New $7.5M Request for Jefferson Parkway
Did you know that the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority has asked Arvada, Broomfield, and Jefferson County for $7,500,000 MORE MONEY for 2019?
Did you know that the JPPHA has ALREADY spent $10,500,000 in taxpayer dollars from those municipalities since 2008, and now wants that much MORE?
Is that how you want your local taxes spent, on this reckless project? Don’t you think there are better things that could be done with $18,000,000 from the Arvada, Broomfield, and Jefferson County budgets?
If you are surprised and angered by this information, then ACT! Contact your city council member immediately. Tell them you oppose this waste, and tell them to be responsible to the citizens. Contact information and a sample email are given below.
In 1989 voters defeated the first attempt at this roadway, then called W-470, by a four-to-one margin. In 2000 the Northwest Quadrant Feasibility Study concluded such a roadway wouldn’t relieve congestion, so arterial streets were improved instead. Usage of the Northwest Parkway fell so short of projections that its bonds were rated junk, it was leased to a Portuguese company for a century, and its tolls were repeatedly increased. And concern over plutonium re-suspension from disturbing Rocky Flats soil has been raised for 32 years by downwind HOAs and concerned citizens.
But the beltway backers just won’t quit. They ignore the will of the citizens, the findings of the studies, the results from other regional tollways, and the public health risks. All for what? To please development interests? To feed their egos? To avoid admitting failure?
It’s time to tell them enough is enough. Stop pretending. Quit throwing good money after bad. Be responsible public servants, and show some integrity.
Resolutions to approve JPPHA’s additional 2019 funding request will come before the Arvada and Broomfield City Councils in January or February. Please contact your council member immediately, tell them you are opposed, and demand they deny the request. Contact information follows, as does a sample email message.
Please share this post on social media, in your Nextdoor neighborhoods, and on email lists scoped to Arvada and Broomfield.
Mayor Marc Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-424-4486
District 1 Councilmember Nancy Ford: email@example.com
District 2 Councilmember Mark McGoff: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-423-5258
District 3 Councilmember and Mayor Pro-Tem John Marriott: email@example.com, 720-273-3912
District 4 Councilmember David Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org
At-Large Councilmember Dot Miller: email@example.com
At-Large Councilmember Bob Fifer: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-929-4278
Mayor Randy Ahrens: email@example.com, 303.469.1498
Ward 1 Council Member Elizabeth Law-Evans: Elawfirstname.lastname@example.org, 303.460.1295
Ward 1 Council Member Stan Jezierski: email@example.com, 720.272.2158
Ward 2 Council Member Mike Shelton: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303.269.1946
Ward 2 Council Member Sharon Tessier: email@example.com, 303-641-5433
Ward 3 Council Member and Mayor Pro-Tem Bette Erickson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303.466.3255
Ward 3 Council Member Deven Shaff: email@example.com, 970.344.8032
Ward 4 Council Member Kevin Kreeger: firstname.lastname@example.org, 720.982.3751
Ward 4 Council Member Kimberly Groom: email@example.com, 303.374.4074
Ward 5 Council Member David Beacom: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303.453.9420
Ward 5 Council Member Guyleen Castriotta: email@example.com, 720.607.1527
Sample email: (send to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com)
Honorable Council Member,
I am opposed to the allocation of another $2,500,000 from the City’s budget to fund the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority in 2019.
I urge you to vote against this allocation when it comes before Council in a resolution very soon this year.
The Jefferson Parkway project makes no sense. Voters disapproved its predecessor W-470 by a four-to-one margin in 1989. The Northwest Quadrant Feasibility Study found in 2000 that such a roadway won’t relieve congestion in our city. The Northwest Parkway has been a financial disaster for Broomfield. And the public health risk of disturbing plutonium-contaminated soil east of Rocky Flats is paramount. There is no defensible reason to build this parkway and waste taxpayer money doing so.
Please spend our tax dollars more wisely, and please be responsive to the will of the citizens.
An Engaged Constituent
Environmental Law has been ignored. This is the reason for the lawsuit.
Read this - by a true expert - to understand why plutonium is dangerous
From the Daily Camera
Niels Schonbeck: Plutonium continually radiates inside body
Posted: 08/17/2018 08:54:02 AM MDT
Updated: 08/17/2018 08:55:44 AM MDT
Bill Schwarz's letter, published on Aug. 9, calls LeRoy Moore's letter of Aug. 5 "confused." But he seems ignorant of the properties of plutonium-239, the principal form of plutonium at Rocky Flats. Moore's article mentions Robert Del Tredici's photo of a single speck of plutonium in the lung tissue of an ape. Any creature in the presence of airborne plutonium can inhale a particle, perhaps several.
Plutonium proves harmful only if taken into the body. Inhalation is the most likely way to be exposed. Once inside the body, the plutonium lodges somewhere — lung, liver, bone, brain, gonads — and continually irradiates surrounding cells for the rest of one's life. The speck or particle of plutonium in the body constantly emits bursts of radiation — not one, but many.
For example, a billionth of a gram of plutonium-239 — which contains about 2 trillion atoms — releases two alpha particles every second, causing 2 million chemical bonds to break every second. It is bond breakage that leads to mutations in the genome and ultimately cancer. Because plutonium is not spread out evenly in the environment, what remains uncertain is how many plutonium atoms are attached to your particular inhaled dust particle at Rocky Flats.
In his letter, Moore referred to physicist Fritjof Capra, a leading specialist, and very knowledgeable about plutonium. And he mentioned Del Tredici, because his photo taken at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley is a rare picture of the bursts of radiation actually happening inside a lung over a period of 48 hours.
Moore's letter carefully documented what he said.
On July 17th, 2018, witnesses testified under oath in Federal Court. The full transcript can be found on the Ambushed Grand Jury Website.
Read the transcript, then decide for yourself if it is safe to recreate at Rocky Flats.
You won't wake up in the morning with cancer. It will take a few years for the cancer to develop after exposure to weapons-grade plutonium. So don't worry.
AFTER DECADES OF SECRETS, ROCKY FLATS STILL GIVES ME PAUSE
Denver Post -- June 15, 2018
By Mark B. Johnson | Guest Commentary
I most likely owe my very existence to the atomic bomb.
My father was in what was supposed to be the first wave of soldiers to occupy Japan in World War II. Based on the battles of Iwo Jima, Guam, and Okinawa, they had been told by their commanding officers that there was little chance they would survive. It had been estimated that the U.S. would lose at least a million soldiers in the occupation. My father figured he would be one of them.
My father strongly believed that more lives were saved than were lost by our use of nuclear weapons. Over the years he convinced me that was true.
I am, however, opposed to nuclear contamination.
Rocky Flats has become infamous for nuclear contamination. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and anyone else who has studied Rocky Flats admits that there was massive nuclear and hazardous waste contamination at the site. They also admit that the contamination was both inside and outside the boundaries of the plant.
The contamination, mostly from plutonium fires and corroding drums full of nuclear hazardous waste, was kept secret from the public by the DOE and its contractors until 1969. The highly visible billowing black smoke from a fire that year made it obvious to outside observers that nuclear contamination was escaping from the site. Independent tests were performed to assess the extent of contamination. When the civilian monitoring teams challenged government officials with the observed measurements, they were told that actually, most of the offsite contamination had come from a more catastrophic fire in 1957. It was the first time anyone in the public had been made aware of that disaster.
Due to Cold War fears and the growing number of military targets identified behind the Iron Curtain, DOE pushed its contractors hard to produce more and more plutonium triggers faster and faster. Safety for workers and the community was secondary, or an afterthought. The contractors were given blanket immunity by the federal government for most lawsuits, should problems occur. This attitude led to numerous accidents and unnecessary exposures for workers, as well as growing piles of waste that had to be stored onsite. Plutonium was handled in such a haphazard fashion that more than a ton of it was eventually lost, or unaccounted for. This culture led to Rocky Flats being ranked by the DOE as the most dangerous nuclear site in the United States. Two of its buildings made the list of the ten most contaminated buildings in America. Building 771 at Rocky Flats was number one.
In 1989, based on information from a plant whistle-blower alleging environmental crimes, the FBI and EPA raided Rocky Flats. This eventually led to the closure of the site and a special grand jury which, after more than 3 years of testimony, sought to criminally indict three government officials and five employees of the plant contractor. The Department of Justice refused to indict, however, and instead negotiated a plea bargain with the contractor, who was required to pay an $18.5 million fine. This was less than they collected in bonuses from the DOE that year, despite more than 400 environmental violations being identified. The evidence and findings of the grand jury were sealed by court order.
When Rocky Flats closed, the DOE estimated that it would take over $35 billion and 70 years to adequately clean the site. Congress appropriated them only $7 billion, and clean-up began.
All of this is uncontested.
What is contested is how much contamination remains on- and offsite after the clean-up, and what risk, if any, may persist. The government has reams of data and multiple exhibits supporting their claim that the risk is low. Concerned community groups and anti-nuclear activists also have data supporting their claim that the risk is not negligible.
I do not know where the truth lies. There is credible science and support on both sides. What I do know is that two of the men who have seen the most evidence concerning the level of contamination at Rocky Flats, the lead agent for the FBI raid and the foreman of the grand jury, continue to advocate for the prohibition of public access to the site. This gives me great pause.
When I was a kid, I guess I watched too many westerns.
They led me to believe that it was a noble thing to stand up to powerful forces when you thought they may be wrong, or when you felt you needed more information before you could support them. They lied to me. In real life, what I have found is that when I have the temerity to question the government’s claims, or ask for additional, independent information to help me decide where the truth may lie, I am labeled a “general of the scare brigade”, “reckless” and “irresponsible”.
I just wish I had the level of certainty that they have who feel so confident in publicly shaming my search for truth.
Mark B. Johnson, MD, MPH, is executive director of Jefferson County Public Health.
My response: There was no remediation - no cleanup of the Refuge. The cleanup was entirely of the plant site, which remains a Nuclear Superfund Site. The Refuge was virtually untouched. And there has been no testing of the Refuge in over a decade. Remember the floods of 2013? Did they affect the Refuge? The protective covering over one of the plutonium processing building's foundation cracked in that flood. The statement that "Rocky Flats was all cleaned up" is extremely misleading, since the cleanup on the plant site itself was only a cover-up, with building foundations, process lines, and landfills left on site. The only stipulation for plutonium limits on the plant site is fairly clean for the first three feet, more allowed three to six feet, then unlimited plutonium under six feet. This is not protective of the Refuge, which had no cleanup.
Presentation by Randy Stafford at our April meeting.
Thorough and Understandable.
Take time to view this video. Thankful to Jeff Gipe for making this possible.