For four decades the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, located 16 miles northwest of downtown Denver, was a key facility in the United States nuclear weapons race.
It was viewed first as a subject of pride by Colorado citizens, who welcomed the booming commercial and residential growth that accompanied it. Gradually, however, many citizens protested its potential danger as a global hazard and a local threat.
After years of political debate and governmental and public scrutiny, plutonium production at Rocky Flats was ceased in 1989. Today the plant's mission is cleanup and closure.
The controversial history of Rocky Flats has been documented for the first time by University of Colorado at Boulder journalism professor Len Ackland in "Making a Real Killing: Rocky Flats and the Nuclear West."
Ackland's story is about the Church family, who came west seeking gold in 1861, settled near what would become the Rocky Flats site and began a lifetime journey of negotiations with the federal government. It is about the government and private corporations that were involved in questionable and even dangerous production practices; loyal plant managers and workers; and citizen activists who challenged the plant's very existence.
It is also about a community that profited from thousands of jobs and contracts but now faces long-term environmental and health risks.
"The story of Rocky Flats epitomizes mistakes made in the 20th century that rested on the myopic notion that a nation can preserve its security by building weapons of mass destruction that place incalculable numbers of men, women and children at risk," Ackland said.
"But the story also shows how citizens can become involved and help change bad government policy."
Ackland has been a member of the CU-Boulder faculty since 1991. He is a former
Chicago Tribune reporter and former editor of the "Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists." He began researching and
Contact: Len Ackland
University of Colorado at Boulder