Nuclear Guardianship for Rocky Flats

In Democracy, Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats on June 8, 2010 at 10:48 am


A series of presentations and workshops

A work in progress  (May21, 2010 draft)

WHAT: We seek to implement Nuclear Guardianship at the plutonium-contaminated site of the former Rocky Flats nuclear bomb plant. This innovative effort will simultaneously provide a model for long-term ecological caretaking of radioactively contaminated sites elsewhere while challenging the government plan to turn Rocky Flats into a wildlife refuge open for public recreation. The project provides a case study in shifting from the polluting risk-based culture we have inherited to a culture of ecological responsibility that is more democratic and healthier.

Nuclear Guardianship entails responsible care of nuclear materials utilized in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and in nuclear power technology. It is a community-based activity that works at the nexus of art, science and spirituality to protect people and the environment from further radioactive poisoning. It enables present and future generations to take responsibility for the nuclear legacy bequeathed to them. Nuclear Guardianship embraces the practice of ecological democracy in which humans ensure that in decisions about the site concern is given to the needs of all affected parties, human and non-human.

The Rocky Flats Guardianship project will bring together technical specialists and artists from varied backgrounds to offer presentations and interactive workshops that examine current environmental conditions at Rocky Flats within the context of the history of the site as well as the larger nuclear enterprise. We will explore the US Government’s plan to open the planned wildlife refuge for public recreation, create cultural markers that inform the public about risk at the site, and implement guardianship and ecological democracy for Rocky Flats.

WHY: After completion of the “cleanup” of the site of the defunct Rocky Flats nuclear bomb plant near Denver, the Department of Energy (DOE) transferred 4,465 acres (roughly seven square miles) of the site to US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to operate as a wildlife refuge. FWS had already decided that the future refuge would be open for public recreation. But both the refuge and the 1,309-acre parcel at its center retained by the DOE for ongoing maintenance are still contaminated with plutonium in the form of very small particles. The “cleanup” was inadequate both because site cleanup standards were insufficiently protective of the public health and because crucial data about site conditions were not considered in the “cleanup.” The toxicity of plutonium and its 24,000-year half-life make any quantity of this material in the environment an essentially permanent danger.

The Rocky Flats Guardianship project will foster a broad consideration of what should be done. Participants will be encouraged to develop concrete steps that they can take with others to help care for the contaminated landscape at Rocky Flats. The emphasis is on caring and creativity.

WHEN:  We anticipate a series of interactive presentations and workshops over an extended period from January to June 2011 culminating in a weekend workshop on implementing nuclear guardianship. We will enable those engaged to digest demanding content, some conventionally denied in our society, in order to make their own creative and constructive responses. 

WHERE:  Various locations in the Denver/Boulder area

PRODUCTS (a preliminary list)

  • A web site to serve as a one-stop resource regarding nuclear guardianship and conditions at Rocky Flats (being developed)
  • A guidebook explaining lessons learned and what has been put in place; intended as an aid to people wanting to do similar work in other locations
  • A program of perennial testing of respirable dust at Rocky Flats for its plutonium content
  • Recruiting of guardians and creation of organizational structures that establish nuclear guardianship at Rocky Flats
  • Exhibitions


  • Joanna Macy, PhD, author, systems theorist, scholar of Buddhism, visionary thinker who conceived of nuclear guardianship: will offer final workshop on implementing guardianship
  • Lucy Lippard, internationally known author, art critic and curator; focuses on art, politics & place
  • Robert Del Tredici, foremost photographer of the nuclear enterprise and specialist on processes of nuclear weapons production
  • Kathleen Sullivan, PhD, disarmament activist and education consultant to the UN on nuclear issues; produced a film on survivors of Nagasaki
  • Marguerite Kahrl, MFA, sculptor whose work draws connections between aesthetic expressions and living systems; her prototypes address radioactively contaminated sites
  • Barbara Donachy, MSPH, Denver artist whose works in the 1980s revealed the magnitude of the nuclear weapons enterprise; wrote “Poison Fire,” a play on nuclear guardianship
  • Anne Waldman, poet and head of summer writing program at Naropa U., long active in Rocky Flats issues
  • LeRoy Moore, PhD, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center; author of many works on Rocky Flats; lay specialist on radiation health effects
  • Jack Collom, poet & essayist who teaches at Naropa; will do poetry workshop with children
  • *Steve Berendzen, Manager of RF National Wildlife Refuge or his designee to explain how official policy provides adequate care for the environment and public health
  • Harvey Nichols, PhD, biology professor emeritus, U. of Colo.; did early studies of migration of radioactive particles in the environment at Rocky Flats
  • W. Gale Biggs, PhD, meteorologist; researched plutonium released from Rocky Flats and assessed the adequacy of air monitoring done at the site
  • Marco Kaltofen, PE, of Boston Chemical Data Corp., specialist in sampling respirable dust and testing it for plutonium content
  • Steve Wing, PhD, School of Public Health, U. of North Carolina; epidemiologist and specialist on plutonium health effects
  • Niels Schonbeck, PhD, professor of chemistry, Metro State, Denver; has long taught courses on nuclear issues and on Rocky Flats
  • *Mona Estrada, public school teacher on whether students should visit the wildlife refuge
  • Jacque Brever, former Rocky Flats worker, whistleblower, critic of plans to open the wildlife refuge to the public
  • Wes McKinley, foreman of grand jury that examined evidence of environmental lawbreaking at Rocky Flats collected by the FBI in its 1989 raid on the plant; now in Colo. Legislature
  • Jon Lipsky, former FBI agent who directed the 1989 FBI raid on Rocky Flats
  • Shawn Smallwood, examined effect of burrowing animals on plutonium in Rocky Flats soil
  • *Terry Tempest Williams, writer, naturalist, environmental activist


CONTACTS: Send email messages to <RFNuclearGuardianship@gmail.com> or call LeRoy Moore at 303-477-2779 or Jane Dalrymple-Hollo at 303-449-0691.

Visit the Rocky Flats Nuclear Guardianship website: http://www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org/


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