Rocky Flats Reborn as National Wildlife Refuge

The U.S. Department of Energy announced July 12 is has transferred nearly 4,000 acres of its former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production site to the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More than a decade of environmental cleanup work preceded the transfer, which has created the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge about 16 miles northwest of Denver.

"The Department of Energy's environmental cleanup of the Rocky Flats weapons production reservation exemplifies the Bush administration's commitment to turn contaminated sites into public assets for future generations," Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management James Rispoli said in the news release. "We are proud to transfer this space to the U.S. Department of Interior and we will continue with plans to complete environmental cleanup work at five more sites across the country by 2009."

Workers at the plant manufactured trigger mechanisms for U.S. nuclear weapons from 1951 until 1989, in the process contaminating the site with plutonium, uranium, beryllium, and hazardous chemical compounds. DOE certified the cleanup work as complete in 2005; it had cost about $7 billion and finished more than 50 years ahead of initial forecasts, the agency says. (The 1994 cost estimate was nearly $30 billion higher, says DOE.)

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