| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Radiological and heavy metal
contamination closed a Colorado nuclear weapons facility to the
public for decades, but soon it will open as a national
wildlife refuge where people can watch hawks and elk.
The U.S. Energy Department this week said it transferred
4,000 acres of the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons
production site, 16 miles northwest of Denver, Colorado, to the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for use as a nature refuge.
The government will need at least a year to open up a short
trail to the public at the refuge, Fish and Wildlife Service
spokesman Dean Rundle said. "There are a lot of weeds in
there," he said, adding that roads also need to be cleared.
Opening the rest of the refuge could take three to five years
to secure necessary funds, he said.
During the Cold War, the Rocky Flats plant made triggers
for nearly every nuclear weapon in the United States. The
manufacturing process released radiation, hazardous chemical
compounds and heavy metals including plutonium, uranium
poisoning the air, water and ground, the DOE said.
Nearly 2,700 Rocky Flats workers have filed claims with the
government over their illnesses, according to the United
Steelworkers of America. So far, 807 have been approved and 617
In 1983, 17,000 protesters joined hands encircling the
site's 17-mile (27-km) perimeter to protest the Cold War
nuclear arms buildup.
The site closed in 1989 after federal agents raided it on
accusations of environmental crimes were being committed by
Rockwell International, the Energy Department contractor who
operated Rocky Flats. The Environmental Protection Agency
declared it a Superfund site. The cleanup took 10 years and
cost about $7 billion.
The Energy Department will retain about 1,300 acres (526
hectares) in the center of the site that still has low levels
of residual contamination.