By Robert Weller
3:34 p.m. August 18, 2004
DENVER - An FBI agent who said he was ordered not to discuss his role in a 15-year investigation of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant warned Wednesday against creating a wildlife refuge at the site, saying it would be too dangerous.
Jon Lipsky, who led a 1989 raid on the plant after being tipped off about secret illegal burning of radioactive waste, said he was ordered by superiors to abandon his plans to talk about the investigation at a news conference.
The news conference was called to discuss a report written by former Rocky Flats employee Jacque Brever accusing the Department of Energy of lying about the extent of contamination at Rocky Flats, about 10 miles west of downtown Denver.
The department plans to convert the site into a wildlife refuge in two years after a $7 billion cleanup is complete.
Brever's report said so much radioactive waste was disposed of clandestinely at Rocky Flats that some contaminated areas are not part of the cleanup.
"I can tell you that Jacque's report is accurate," said Lipsky, saying he was speaking as a private citizen.
FBI spokesman Joe Parris confirmed Lipsky had been told not to talk about the investigation because he had not followed standard procedure and asked for permission. Parris said Lipsky could have faced sanctions if he had discussed it.
Rocky Flats made plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons until production was shut down after the 1989 raid. A federal grand jury investigated allegations of safety violations by the contractor and the Department of Energy.
The grand jury wanted to indict eight, including two corporations, but the Justice Department declined. The grand jury's report remains sealed.
One of the plant's operators at the time, Rockwell International Corp., pleaded guilty to 10 hazardous waste and clean water violations in 1992 and paid an $18.5 million fine.
Brever prepared her report for Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who had asked for a detailed account of her concerns about Rocky Flats. Speaking with difficulty because of thyroid cancer she believes she contracted while working at Rocky Flats, Brever said employees would dump contaminated waste in a duck pond.
"We called it feeding the ducks," she said, noting that the pond is not listed among the areas being cleaned.
Energy Department spokeswoman Karen Lutz said officials have reviewed Brever's report and some of the areas Brever cited have been cleaned up or will be. Lutz said a cleanup of the duck pond will begin in the next three weeks.
"The Department of Energy is very confident that the cleanup of Rocky Flats is thorough, safe and protective," Lutz said.
Neils Schonbeck, a professor of biochemistry at Metro State College in Denver who has studied Rocky Flats since 1988, said he is concerned that recent research in Britain indicates that the cancer risk from inhalation of plutonium could be 10 times higher than previously thought.
He said the government's acceptable limit of 50 picocuries in topsoil at Rocky Flats is far too high. Schonbeck said visitors could stir up dust and put dangerous levels of plutonium in the air. "Even rain can mobilize plutonium" he said.
On the Net:
Fish and Wildlife Service refuge plan: http://rockyflats.fws.gov/
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center fact sheet: http://www.rmpjc.org/2002/FlatsCleanup-Facts.html