The Rocky Flats Site, formerly the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site (RFETS) and before that the Rocky Flats Plant, is now part cleanup site and part National Wildlife Refuge, situated on a 6,262 acre reserve (10.2 square miles) located 16 miles northwest of Denver, Colorado, in Jefferson County on a plateau at the eastern edge of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. It was established in 1951 to manufacture nuclear weapons as part of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. The first plot of land was acquired in 1951 and additional parcels were acquired in 1974 and 1975, increasing the size of the site to approximately 6,500 acres, including a part of the site in southern Boulder County. Most of the land, about 10 square miles, was used as a security buffer for the approximately 384-acre, centrally-located, controlled-access industrial area where facilities were located.
The site is divided into three geographic areas. The industrial area, consisting of 384 acres, is located in the center of the site. There were more than 800 structures in the industrial area that included approximately 150 permanent buildings and 90 trailers, plus temporary structures, sheds, tanks, and annexes to larger buildings. The protected area is fenced within the northern portion of the industrial area and contained a complex of plutonium production facilities. The buffer zone, which surrounds the industrial area and protecting it from potential encroachment, is about 10 square miles and constituted the majority of the land.
In 2005, DOE certified the physical completion of the site's 10-year environmental cleanup project, which cost $7 billion. Cleanup included the decommissioning, decontamination, demolition, and removal of more than 800 structures, including six plutonium processing and fabrication building complexes. The project was finished more than 50 years ahead of and $30 billion less than estimated in 1994. DOE retains approximately 1,300 acres in the center of the site for long-term surveillance and maintenance. The area contains surface and groundwater monitoring equipment, four groundwater treatment systems, and two closed landfills.
After cleanup, Rocky Flats was designated as two operable units (OUs) within the boundaries of the property: the 1,308-acre Central OU and the 4,883-acre Peripheral OU. The Central OU consolidated all areas of Rocky Flats that required additional remedial/response actions. The Peripheral OU included the remaining, generally unaffected portions of Rocky Flats and surrounds the Central OU. The Peripheral OU, which served as a security buffer zone during production, was transferred to the U.S. Department of Interior for management by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in July 2007. The Offsite Areas at Rocky Flats, OU 3, were addressed under a separate no action Corrective Action Decision/Record of Decision (CAD/ROD) on June 3, 1997. The area consists of open space, residential development and agricultural lands.
In February 2006, the Rocky Flats Stewardship Council was formed to provide local government and community oversight of the post-closure management of Rocky Flats. The organization, which was preceded by the Rocky Flats Coalition of Local Governments, includes elected officials from nine municipal governments neighboring Rocky Flats, three community organizations and one individual.
On March 14, 2007, DOE, EPA, and CDPHE signed the Rocky Flats Legacy Management Agreement (RFLMA), a framework for implementation of the final strategy. On May 25, 2007 the EPA announced the deletion of 25,423 acres of the Rocky Flats site from the National Priorities List. The areas included the 4,933-acre Peripheral Operable Unit, formerly known as the Buffer Zone, and the 20,480-acre Operable Unit 3. On June 11, 2007, the EPA certified that the cleanup of Rocky Flats was complete. In July 2007, DOE transferred 3,953 acres from the Peripheral Operable Unit to the Department of the Interior's (DOI) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for use as a National Wildlife Refuge, establishing the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
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