An Open and Shut-Down Case

From the dawn of the atomic age, the factories that build nuclear weapons have been shielded from outside scrutiny. The people that run the nuclear weapons plants have been free to engage in their ventures with little public awareness or accountability. This summer, the shroud of secrecy around nuclear weapons production began to be removed, and what was exposed has shocked and embarrassed even the industry's most zealous supporters.

An astounding series of recent events has revealed that the agency responsible for the production of the U.S. nuclear arsenal has engaged in gross misconduct that has endangered the safety and health of those living and working around nuclear weapons plants.

The most dramatic example of the unveiling of the Department of Energy's wrongdoing took place in early June at the nuclear weapons trigger factory at Rocky Flats, Colorado. In an unprecedented surprise raid under the code name "Operation Desert Glow," 70 agents from the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swooped in on the Rocky Flats plant to uncover evidence of illegal waste disposal practices and a massive public cover-up.

The investigation of Rocky Flats mismanagement took a bizarre twist last December when the FBI sent a surveillance plane to gather data about the operations of the weapons plant, a rare example of an intelligence agency spying on another department of the federal government. Following the June 6 raid, the FBI charged that the Energy Department, along with the company that operates Rocky Flats, Rockwell International, had "falsely certified" the plant's compliance with environmental and safety regulations and concealed Rocky Flats' "serious contamination."

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