Press Release: New Research about "Hot Particles" of Plutonium at Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge
September 12, 2019
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center
for immediate release, Thursday, September 12, 2019
NEW RESEARCH FINDS SIX MORE “HOT PARTICLES” OF PLUTONIUM
AT ROCKY FLATS WILDLIFE REFUGE; ADVOCATES URGE CLOSING SITE TO VISITORS, HALTING PARKWAY PLAN PENDING FURTHER INVESTIGATION OF CONTAMINATION AND HEALTH RISK
for further information: Dr. Michael Ketterer Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org Christopher Allred (303) 444-6981 Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
An independent scientific researcher has identified another six “hot particles” of essentially pure, weapons-grade plutonium dioxide in soil at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Dr. Michael E. Ketterer, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Northern Arizona University, found the contamination near hiking trails and the proposed Jefferson Parkway.
Dr. Ketterer explained his research, “I performed a series of experiments specifically designed to detect small bits of plutonium dioxide. Surface soil was collected from half a dozen locations in the Indiana Street corridor near the location of the former East Gate. Though overall plutonium levels were consistent with Rocky Flats clean up requirements, lab analysis detected the presence of ‘hot particles’ of weapons-grade plutonium in six portions of one sample.”
The small size of the plutonium fragments in the samples means that they could be breathed in and lodged in the lungs, posing a significant health risk. Dr. Ketterer explained, “Plutonium dioxide within the lungs will release radioactivity into nearby tissue. Particles of the size I detected will generate thousands of radioactive decay events per day.“
Dr. Ketterer’s results are consistent with the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority’s recent finding of a similarly sized plutonium dioxide particle in soil from the Indiana Street corridor.
Chris Allred, a spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center (RMPJC), which helped fund the research, added, “Dr. Ketterer’s new research demonstrates that the current cleanup standard at Rocky Flats does not protect visitors and workers from inhaling plutonium. There must be further investigation of the presence of hot particles and their health risk. Members of the public should contact their local, state, and federal elected officials to hold the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) as well as the Department of Energy (DOE) accountable."
Jon Lipsky, the former FBI agent who led the raid which shut down Rocky Flats for environmental crimes, concluded. “Until this research is completed, the Refuge should be closed to visitors and the Jefferson Parkway Project postponed in the interest of protecting human health. Documents from the Rocky Flats Grand Jury should also be made public to confirm the volume of contaminants released from nuclear bomb component production at the site. DOE admits that 2,600 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium from Rocky Flats operations remains unaccounted for.”
RMPJC is among the groups suing USFWS to close the Refuge pending a thorough environmental review. Other plaintiffs include Candelas Glows/Rocky Flats Glows, Rocky Flats Right to Know, Rocky Flats Neighborhood Association and Environmental Information Network.
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An Executive Summary of Dr. Ketterer’s report and the full document are available at the following links: