Full Body Burden
Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats
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Full Body Burden is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction about a young woman, Kristen Iversen, growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated "the most contaminated site in America." It's the story of a childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and--unknown to those who lived there--tainted with invisible yet deadly particles of plutonium.
It's also a book about the destructive power of secrets--both family and government. Her father's hidden liquor bottles, the strange cancers in children in the neighborhood, the truth about what was made at Rocky Flats (cleaning supplies, her mother guessed)--best not to inquire too deeply into any of it.
But as Iversen grew older, she began to ask questions. She learned about the infamous 1969 Mother's Day fire, in which a few scraps of plutonium spontaneously ignited and--despite the desperate efforts of firefighters--came perilously close to a "criticality," the deadly blue flash that signals a nuclear chain reaction. Intense heat and radiation almost melted the roof, which nearly resulted in an explosion that would have had devastating consequences for the entire Denver metro area. Yet the only mention of the fire was on page 28 of the Rocky Mountain News, underneath a photo of the Pet of the Week. In her early thirties, Iversen even worked at Rocky Flats for a time, typing up memos in which accidents were always called "incidents."
And as this memoir unfolds, it reveals itself as a brilliant work of investigative journalism--a detailed and shocking account of the government's sustained attempt to conceal the effects of the toxic and radioactive waste released by Rocky Flats, and of local residents' vain attempts to seek justice in court. Here, too, are vivid portraits of former Rocky Flats workers--from the healthy, who regard their work at the plant with pride and patriotism, to the ill or dying, who battle for compensation for cancers they got on the job.
Based on extensive interviews, FBI and EPA documents, and class-action testimony, this taut, beautifully written book promises to have a very long half-life.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
A shocking book about government and corporate ineptitude involving the production of our nuclear weapons. As a resident of a community dangerously close to Rocky Flatts, I'm outraged and angry that my local, state and federal government allowed such a disgusting operation to be built, let alone in one of the most beautiful areas of the front range of Colorado.
Furthermore, I'm outraged that residents of the Denver area and Jefferson county are so poorly informed of the danger lurking at Rocky Flatts. People are allowed to fish and boat in Stanley lake. To think this are could be open to the public is a shame. I wonder what risks I've taken riding my bike around the area with no warning.
Any government official that hasn't voted for better signage, cleanup, education and quarantine of this area should be ashamed of themselves. I applaud Kristen Iverson for her efforts to expose he nasty truth about Rocky Flats and I hope the word spreads about what seems to be one of the most toxic and radioactive places in America ... Which is literally in the backyard of so many.
Great read, especially If you live in Jefferson, Boulder or Denver county.
Full Body Burden
Great writing about a tough and scary subject. How sad that Denver and the surrounding area, as well as other U.S. communities have to deal with Nuclear waste.
Full body burden
This is a book we all need to read. Very well written. The story takes you behind the scenes at a nuclear weapons plant during the cold war. It is mind-blowing what was going on so close to a large population center. It is now after the fact. But we all need to realize the huge compromises that were made and why. It is very nicely balanced with the authors' own story of growing up right next to the plant. One of the best non- fiction books to come out this year.