Tuesday 9 August 2016

Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen

Subtitled Growing up in the Shadow of a Secret Nuclear Facility, this book is part a memoir and part investigative journalism. Kristen Iversen grew up near Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear facility in Colorado. At the time she and most people in the area who didn't work at the facility thought it produced cleaning products. Anyone who actually worked in the facility was sworn to secrecy.

Her childhood wasn't easy, her father was a very difficult man, but she wandered the countryside on horseback and loved the land, never realising the dangers that lurked around her. Gradually people became more aware, and a very large proportion of the local people developed cancers and other illnesses as a direct result of living near the facility.

As Iversen herself became more aware of the truth about the plant (due in part to a stint at working in the plant temporarily while studying) she began to research. The plant made components for nuclear weapons and security and health and safety were woefully poor (put it this way, Homer Simpson seems a paragon of an efficient, competent safety inspector in comparison).

This is grim, but necessary reading. The catalogue of mistakes (from small fires to two full scale disasters) made by the plant combined with official lack of concern (awareness of plutonium levels would kill the housing market in the area and cause bad publicity so all the authorities, including health authorities, stayed quiet about the truth) are very sobering indeed. And given that it takes plutonium thousands of years to decay, the land will effectively be contaminated forever.

Nuclear weapons don't just kill the people they're dropped on, they can slowly kill the people who make them and those who live in the vicinity of the plant.

"Many inescapable decisions have been forced upon us - decisions about nuclear weapons and nuclear energy that will have far reaching consequences with sometimes dangerous and unintended results. To speak out or to remain silent is the first and most crucial decision we can make."

Renew Trident anyone?

Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen published by Vintage (2013). and printed on Forestry Stewardship Council certified paper


Bob Bushell said...

Trident, no thanks.

Sandy said...

I am going to look for this book.