This column has been changed to reflect an inaccuracy by the editorial staff. As previously stated, Jacque Brever and Kristen Iverson were not former collegues at Rocky Flats.
Jacque Brever, a former chemical operator at Rocky Flats, died last month after suffering 26 years from various cancers and respiratory issues.
“I am not afraid of dying, at least I can do something to clean up the mess we made,” Brever is quoted in Kristen Iverson’s book, “Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats.”
“I’m really ashamed that we’re leaving this mess for people like my daughter and her generation.”
From 1952 to 1989, Rocky Flats — the former U.S. secret nuclear weapons facility just south of Boulder on Highway 93 — produced more than 70,000 plutonium triggers that were used for nuclear bombs. According to Iversen, this production caused extensive contamination in the air, water and soil in residential areas near the site. Frequent fires would even spread radioactive and toxic contaminates across the Denver metro area, Iverson has said.
Brever began working in the plant in 1982 at age 25, but by 1988 — after fearing for her health and safety, according to reports — she acted as a whistleblower in the FBI investigation of Rocky Flats.
According to “The Ambushed Grand Jury,” a book by lawyer Caron Balkany and former Colorado state representative Wes McKinley, Brever’s activism angered fellow workers who were fearful of losing their jobs.
On Sept. 14, 1989, while working at the plant, Brever was contaminated with plutonium, the book states.
“I reached my arm in the glove to move a bottle. As soon as I did, the alarm sounded… I pulled my arm out of the glove and monitored my hand. My glove was hot… I stood with a contaminated respirator on my contaminated face and I could not move, as my sleeves, hands, and coveralls were contaminated…
“While I was standing in the doorway, waiting for the radiation monitor, two chemical operators came down the hallway. They saw me and started laughing. They came over and one of them said, ‘Well, that’s what you get for making waves,'” according to book excerpts.
Whistleblowers, like Brever, definitely shake up the complacent status quo — and they are often demonized. For many years, I have been an anti-nuclear activist alongside Jacque. I have known and loved her for many years, I even nicknamed her “Angel.”
As we remember this “Angel” and hardworking activist, it will be her brave act — one that saved lives — that will live on.
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.