Between 1952 and 1989, Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant — just 16 miles outside Denver — was the country’s headquarters for weapons of mass destruction. Workers there produced more than 700 plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs in the Cold War arsenal.
But in 1989, following
allegations of radioactive groundwater contamination and illegally
burned and lost plutonium waste, the FBI conducted its first-ever
raid of a federal facility. That raid shut down the weapons factory
and initiated a "special grand jury" proceeding to determine the
culpability of the U.S. Department of Energy and its defense
contractor, Rockwell (HCN, 3/30/98).
What happened next
depends on who is telling the story. After interviewing FBI
operatives, Rocky Flats workers and scientists for almost three
years, Justice Department prosecutors forced a plea bargain, citing
a lack of evidence. That plea bargain eventually opened the door to
Rocky Flats’ new identity as a 6,000-acre wildlife refuge and
recreation area. The refuge will open as soon as a contractor
finishes demolishing buildings and planting native grass.
The government also fined Rockwell $18.5 million, but said there
were no off-site hazards from operations at the weapons plant, and
it dropped fraud charges against Energy bigwigs and Rockwell execs.
But, according to a new book, the 23 Colorado citizens on
the grand jury must have attended a different hearing:
Whistleblowers confirmed illegal plutonium burning and a series of
other safety lapses, and experts reaffirmed extensive contamination
inside and outside the plant. The Ambushed Grand Jury reaches the
verdict that the Justice Department’s conclusions reflect a
Authors Wes McKinley, the grand
jury foreman, and Caron Balkany, a pro bono lawyer, show how
Justice and Energy officials worked together to avoid government
blame and exonerate Rockwell — and ensure the company could
receive future federal contracts. The Ambushed Grand Jury presents
this untold case of Rocky Flats and challenges readers to press for
environmental justice for the millions of downwind and downstream
metro Denver families at risk of toxic poisoning. For more
information, visit www.ambushedgrandjury.com .
The Ambushed Grand Jury: How the Justice Department
Covered Up Government Nuclear Crimes and How We Caught Them Red
By Wes McKinley and Caron Balkany, Esq.
279 pages, softcover: $19.95.
The Apex Press,
Toxic waste, tainted justice
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