Hot Particle Politics on the Rocky Flats Highway

If you’ve lived in Colorado for any length of time, you know about Rocky Flats and the protests of decades past — protests not just because of what was being manufactured at Rocky Flats (nuclear weapon parts), but because of the dispersal of plutonium in the topsoil and into the atmosphere. Time has passed, and some groups have forgotten that plutonium is 1) always lethal, and 2) never goes away.

In the northwest corner of the metro Denver area there’s a plan to construct a superhighway. Actually, the plan for this “last leg of the beltway around Denver” has been on the books for 50 years or so, and like plutonium, it simply won’t go away. The draft plans today show that the construction zone will pass through what was once part of Rocky Flats.

From the article in our News section: “The parkway is controversial for a number of reasons, including funding, [and] concerns over increased traffic and sprawl and safety. Some worry about the roadway crossing the southeast edge of Rocky Flats – the former government facility that produced plutonium bomb triggers from the 1950s until 1992. Small traces of plutonium still exist on the surface of Rocky Flats soil.”

No amount of plutonium is safe, and plutonium, released into the air, is especially toxic. From Wikipedia: “…calculations show that one pound of plutonium could kill no more than 2 million people by inhalation. This makes the toxicity of plutonium roughly equivalent with that of nerve gas.[96]

Development is inevitable, but is development at any cost a wise choice?  The new highway will bring commerce and new housing to the northwest quadrant (http://www.candelasco.com/), and will most likely release plutonium into the atmosphere during the roadway construction phase. It’ll be a sad day when what is now open lands is converted to suburbs and shopping centers, and when the number of bone and liver cancers escalates in the decades following.

About the author /


Michelle Poolet

PLAN Jeffco Board Member. Michelle Poolet is a relative new-comer to PLAN Jeffco, but not to the world of volunteer work. She has been on the Board of PLAN Jeffco since 2008, and in that time has worked hard to ensure the success of various PJ conferences and events. She is part of the PLAN Jeffco web content subcommittee, and liaisons between the PLAN Jeffco Board and the Open Space Advisory Committee. Her “day job” is as President and Chief Enterprise Architect of Mount Vernon Data Systems, a BBB A+ accredited database consulting company. Michelle lives on Lookout Mountain, in unincorporated JeffCo, with her best pal, TessaRose the collie, with whom she enjoys daily trekking in the forests.

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