Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iverson

Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats - Kristen Iversen

Debated about whether to give this book a 2.5 or 3 star rating. This book is structured to tell two intertwining stories: the first, Iverson's memoirs of grouping up in the 1960s and 1970s, her college years, and all her bad decisions and dysfunctional family; the second, the Rocky Flats nuclear manufacturing plant (plutonium triggers or "buttons"). I could've done without her boring tales of her shyness around boys, her parents' marriage failing, her father's love for the bottle, her mother's neediness and love for pills, etc. It was only when her personal life met up with the Rocky Flats story (her getting a job there, the rates of cancer in the families in the neighborhood, her sister's anti-nuke protests and work with environmental groups) that her personal life mattered to me.


To be quite honest, I had never heard of Rocky Flats, even in the late 1980s and all through the 1990s and early 2000s. This was the story that made the book un-put-downable for me. The incidents, the fires, the scientists that were finding the pollution off the site back in the late 1960s and early 1970s and were dismissed as fear-mongering. Rocky Flats is an education in US government Cold War secrecy and corporate greed aided and abetted by a complacent local population that was paid handsomely for doing their jobs and not asking questions. Other nuclear arms manufacturing sites named (repeatedly) that I did not know of prior to reading this book are Hanford, Washington; Savannah River, Atlanta; and Oak City, Tennessee.


Rocky Flats is now a government owned "wildlife refuge and habitat" not open to the public, and not for a lack of trying to make it public by both the DOE and the state of Colorado. There is no way in hell I would ever visit there without a full Hazmat A suit and tank of air.