Golden and Boulder Colorado Map

Rocky Flats Environmental Test Site, between Golden and Boulder

This innocuously-named facility located 21 miles northwest of Denver is a former nuclear weapons fabrication site and a storage facility for over 12 tons of Plutonium-239, over 6.5 tons of uranium-235, and over 160 tons of depleted uranium. It is also the site of numerous cases of unauthorized dumping of radioactive materials that eventually resulted in a FBI raid. In other words, this was Uncle Sam’s atomic landfill site. But at least efforts are now being made to clean up the mess.

Rocky Flats was opened in 1952 to manufacture the hollow plutonium spheres used as “triggers” for hydrogen bombs. It originally duplicated work done at Oak Ridge, TN, but soon added other tasks such as recycling nuclear material from older atomic bombs and storing atomic material. Employment at the site peaked at over 18,000 but sharply declined at the end of the Cold War and was under 10,000 today. Original plans called for the site to be free of all nuclear materials, decontaminated, and converted to a national wildlife refuge by the end of 2006, but that deadline has been extended into the indefinite future. Most operations are concentrated on roughly 380 acres within the 6,262-acre site; the remainder of the acreage serves as a safety/buffer zone.

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The environmental problems at Rocky Flats first came to national attention in 1989, when reports surfaced that safety and environmental guidelines were being widely ignored. These reports from current and former workers at Rocky Flats resulted in the FBI raid to gather records and documents. The seized materials revealed a pattern of delayed or ignored maintenance, inadequate staff training, non-working safety equipment in some buildings, dangerous levels of explosive hydrogen gas in storage drums, and unreported cases of leaks of radioactive materials (including cases where the radioactive materials had seeped

Rocky Flats Environmental Test Site, between Golden and Boulder prise attack on American satellites that could destroy much of the military’s communications and navigation capabilities. Such an attack would render many land-based weapons systems (such as missiles) inoperable. Thus, most of the publicly released information about the Joint National Test Facility stresses its role in planning defensive measures. However, a similar attack by the United States against an adversary’s military satellites in the event of war would inevitably be as routine as strikes against the adversary’s radar installations or military supply lines.

Getting a Look Inside: Schriever does not currently offer public tours.

Getting There: Schriever is located east of the Colorado Springs airport; take the exit for Enoch Road off Highway 94.

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