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August 4, 1989

Nuclear Weapons Facilities Face Attacks From Environmentalists, Government Agencies

JAMA. 1989;262(5):604-605. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430050014004

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THE HEAT IS ON the Department of Energy (DOE). During the last few months, the DOE has become the target of investigations by citizens' groups, congressional committees, government agencies, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). All are charging that the DOE has engaged in illegal disposal practices at many of its nuclear weapons plants.

Last year, the Rocky Flats Weapons Plant in Golden, Colo, became the first DOE facility to become the subject of an FBI investigation. Officials at the plant are suspected of concealing violations of environmental laws, among which are illegal toxic-waste storage and disposal.

The plant, operated under contract by Rockwell International Corporation, processes plutonium and assembles plutonium triggers for weapons. It has a history of accidents dating back to 1957, when a fire released tens of thousands of millicuries of alpha radiation into the atmosphere. More than 200 additional small fires have added additional doses.