Originally published Jan 29, 2015 / Website: https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2015/feb/02/herder-offers-goats-to-clear-radioactive-site/
Opposing the Burn on Rocky Flats Refuge
Although Rocky Flats is known for being a nuclear plant site, currently, as of today, it is being used for a wildlife refuge. It is well known that there is a controlled burn of 701 acres being planned at Rocky Flats in order to clear and improve grasslands; however, this has been a heavily debated topic and caused uproar by citizens living nearby. The reason for this is because of the fact that it originally was a nuclear weapons plant and there is fear that the radioactive elements such as plutonium will be released into the air and the surrounding environment.
In a recent article written in January 2015, it stated that “The refuge was created in 2006 in the wake of the nuclear weapons site’s closure, and a $7 billion cleanup was finished in 2005. Concerns that a controlled burn there could put plutonium into the air have caused Boulder’s Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center and surrounding communities to take a stance against that happening.” There was a proposal from a woman named Lani Malmberg that instead of allowing the burn, she was willing to move 2000 of her goats and herself to live and work at the site as an alternative of the controlled burn; however, she was shut down by the Department of Energy and was told that there “was a lack of “infrastructure,” such as fencing and staff.”
“The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Jan. 20 issued a permit allowing for the burn in what is known as the South Woman Creek area at the southwestern edge of the refuge, just north of Arvada’s Candelas development.”
Plutonium-239 is a very common chemical isotope used in the production of nuclear weapons. It is a radioactive metal that is considered to be a man-made element. Plutonium is made from another chemical element, Uranium, in nuclear reactors. When Uranium-238 absorbs a neutron and becomes Uranium-239, it decays to Plutonium-239. In order to create mass amounts of Plutonium-239, a fuel cell containing Uranium-238 is bombarded with neutrons. When the fuel rods in the nuclear reactors are full, they are removed and dissolved with a highly strong acid and the Plutonium is collected after treating the mixture with several different chemicals. This process leaves over 100 million gallons of hazardous waste.
After testing nuclear weapons on different sites around the world, trace Plutonium is left in the soil. With a half life of 24,100 years, it can be deduced that the soils that had nuclear weapons tested on it and had any type of nuclear activity is still buried and a part of the soil today; including the incident of Rocky Flats.
Plutonium-239 Effects and Exposure
When Plutonium-239 decays, it releases radiation and forms different types of radioactive isotopes, all of which have a very long half life. Due to the long half lives of this element as well as many other radioactive elements, radiation is continually released until these elements become stable and non-radioactive. This leads to the increased exposure that people who live by these old test sites have to deal with. The radiation is spread through the particles in the air as well as water nearby. The fruits and vegetables grown on this soil is also affected. Once Plutonium enters the bloodstream, it remains there for many years affecting all the cells around it as well as all the organs in the body. The risk of cancer is drastically increased from the exposure of Plutonium and other radioactive elements.