“An intimate and deeply human memoir that shows why we should all be concerned about nuclear safety, and the dangers of ignoring science in the name of national security.”—Rebecca Skloot, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
A shocking account of the government’s attempt to conceal the effects of the toxic waste released by a secret nuclear weapons plant in Colorado and a community’s vain search for justice—soon to be a feature documentary
Kristen Iversen grew up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated "the most contaminated site in America." Full Body Burden is 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--best not to inquire too deeply into any of it. But as Iversen grew older, she began to ask questions and discovered some disturbing realities.
Based on extensive interviews, FBI and EPA documents, and class-action testimony, this taut, beautifully written book is both captivating and unnerving.
In this powerful work of research and personal testimony, Iversen (Molly Brown), director of the M.F.A. creative writing program at the University of Memphis. chronicles the story of America's willfully blinkered relationship to the nuclear weapons industry through the haunting experience of her own family in Colorado. Moving to the spanking new subdivision of Denver called Bridledale in 1969, an area hugely expanding due to the growing industries nearby, Iversen's middle-class family of four children, lawyer dad, and homemaker mom believed they had secured the American dream, hardly questioning that Dow Chemical was making anything more than scrubbing bubbles in the top-secret Rocky Flats foundry. Built in the early 1950s by the Atomic Energy Commission to smelt the plutonium "triggers" for the nuclear bombs necessary to deter the Soviet Union during the cold war, Rocky Flats had already suffered a major plutonium fire in 1957, the extent of radiation damage swiftly covered up, before a similar fire on Mother's Day 1969 proved the worst industrial accident in U.S. history, spreading unknown quantities of radiation in the soil and water and costing $70.7 million to clean up also carefully covered up in the name of national security. Meanwhile, residents began to get sick, especially the children who ran wild over the contaminated land; animals grew sterile; protestors started to arouse concern; and studies were published, culminating in a FBI raid of the facility in 1989. Yet the grief was ongoing, as Iversen renders in her masterly use of the present tense, conveying tremendous suspense and impressive control of her material.
Customer ReviewsSee All
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.
I also grew up in Arvada. My father worked at Rocky Flats off and on for years and was there during the fire in 1969. Four out of five members of my family have worked there at some point. We lost Dad in 1969. Mom and my sister have both had thyroid cancer/removal. Mom also has beryllium poisoning. I worked there shortly after the FBI raid. I’ve always thought I should be tested for poisoning but luckily my brother and I haven’t had any major health issues. I wouldn’t even know where to start with medical testing.
This story make you wonder what else the government is hiding from the people !! How many secrets are being kept and what if anything can be done !!