‘B ody burden: the amount of radioactive material present in a human body, which acts as an internal and ongoing source of radiation.”
–From “Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats,” by Kristen Iversen.
Kristen Iversen grew up in the town of Arvada, downwind of the nuclear weapons factory. She was oblivious as she swam in Standley Lake and romped in her yard that the mysterious plant nearby was fabricating 1,800 plutonium pits a year, surrounded by 9-foot-high barbed wire that was electrified and patrolled by guards with guns and tanks.
In her electrifying and elegantly written book, Kristen points out that people don’t talk about plutonium.
“It reminds us of what we don’t want to acknowledge about ourselves. We built nuclear bombs, and we poisoned ourselves in the process.”
Now, the barbed wire and buildings are gone.
The Department of Energy, Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, and the Fish and Wildlife Service stand united in their insistence that the area is safe. Yet, Kristen Iverson and many scientists, students and activists know otherwise.
The winds blow free at Rocky Flats, swooping down from the mountains, picking up plutonium-laden dust and carrying it until it finds its toxic resting place.
There is ignorant excitement over plans for the area. A possible highway, the Jefferson Parkway, across the eastern boundary of the plant has business-oriented people pushing hard with profit in their eyes. They try to convince themselves, and the public, that Rocky Flats is clean and safe. And, confusingly, the radioactive particles are invisible and the land is lovely, so, it’s easy for people to be convinced. Plus, there is huge profit to be made.
Kristen Iverson lays out eloquently the raging conflicts pitting business and government against science and activists who know that the land is contaminated. She’s working to prevent the Jefferson Parkway from being built and the “Wildlife Refuge” from ever opening.
You can hear her story, her facts and her reasoning on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Boulder at the Unity Church in an event created by the Boulder Book Store. Or see her Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Denver at the LoDo Tattered Cover.