November 2023

If you are a newcomer to Colorado or to the Denver metro area, the history of this area may not be known to you.  Interior parts of what is now the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge were the site of a plutonium processing plant which produced fission triggers for thermonuclear (H) bombs.  The concern for some people is the health consequences of sloppy waste storage practices and plant fires before about 1969.   These resulted in wind-blown Pu-contaminated soil downwind.  In terms of contamination, Rocky Flats is among the most thoroughly radiologically characterized area in the world.  The processing plant was the subject of a very thorough Superfund cleanup which was completed in 2005. You can read much more about the cleanup and its verification in a separate document.

Who are you?  

  • If you are a worrier or are reluctant to believe reports from government agencies, this website is for you.
  • Others are happy to read reports from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado state government, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency. We give plenty of links to these elsewhere. Each has extensive documentation about the history of the site.  Our website may be More Than You Need to Know.

The website

From its inception, this website has had a peculiar (we hope, not unpleasant) flavor:

  • A focus on what is measured now. We have almost no interest in the history of the Rocky Flats area pre-cleanup–who did what, when, or how much the cleanup should have cost, etc.  We chose to live here, so we ‘voted with our feet’.  Now means right up through the present; the website is updated frequently when new measurements become available.
  • Complete transparency: We examine every aspect of the issue of living around Rocky Flats from the perspective of a skeptical physicist. This includes a range of topics from the basic physics of nuclear radiation, radiation biology and dosimetry, cancer epidemiology, total background radiation in Colorado, expected and measured cancer rates around here, as well as recent measurements (by us and others) of what is in the soil around Rocky Flats. Spoiler: yes there is plutonium in the soil (and ‘hot particles’ too), but these provide minuscule radiation doses by any reliable means you wish to estimate risk. Inhalation of soil dust is by far the dominant means of exposure.
  • Complete rejection of any sort of conspiracy theories.  There is no coverup of cancer rates, hidden sources of radiation, collusion between the state of Colorado and the Department of Energy or the EPA.
  • Since we are not civil servants who must be polite to constituents, you can count on straightforward, documented denunciations of nincompoops.

Our documents

In deliberate contrast with nonsense on social media, every conclusion (and most statements) on this website is backed up by documents written in the form of scientific ‘journal articles’. In some cases we report our own measurements (for example, for ambient radiation levels around Rocky Flats), or on data (measured `hot particle’ data and NIST measured soil data) simply not available elsewhere. These are written at a level intended for someone with undergraduate exposure to physics, biology, and math, but defers technical issues to appendices.

In each document there are direct citations of the scientific literature, (peer-reviewed journal articles such as Health Physics, published findings by international or professional organizations such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection. The bibliography for each document (available as a downloadable PDF) contains clickable entries which will permit you (provided the reference is not behind a ‘paywall’) to download the journal article or published report and read it for yourself.

DMW began the project which culminated in this website with then question, “How much can a physicist deduce about health risks from residual plutonium soil contamination without depending on the Department of Energy?”  He did this as an exercise, not because of suspicions about the motives or data of the DOE. The answer: virtually everything.

Get started: click on the buttons

Executive summary Start here

Visual summary No pesky math, relatively few words

Core science Read the detailed documents