-- Len Ackland

A ground-level history of nuclear weapons policy in Cold War America

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296 pages + illust., cloth $34.95;


About the Book

Just as huge nuclear explosions result from small spheres of plutonium, the story of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver, Colorado is much larger than itself. It is about the Church family, who came West seeking gold in 1861, stayed to raise cattle, watched the federal government take a large piece of its land for the weapons plant in 1951, and now is busily developing real estate in the booming suburbs next to the contaminated plant site. It is about the government and private corporations which produced the deadliest devices in history for thirty-seven years, concealed problems behind the wall of national security secrecy, and came close to a Chernobyl-scale disaster during a 1969 fire. It is about plant managers who cut corners to maintain weapons production, workers who saw themselves as loyal Cold War soldiers, and citizen activists who challenged the plantís very existence. And it is about a community that profited from thousands of jobs and contracts but now faces long-term environmental and health risks.

Making a Real Killing examines the way Americans participated in building a nuclear weapons arsenal capable of destroying the human species. To read it is to learn some sobering lessons, including the fact that the democratic process lagged decades behind technological developments.


"A model of fair investigation, Making a Real Killing offers a much-needed overview of the history of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, as well as a recognition of the site's many levels of significance, from the personal and local to the international and global. As Americans reckon with the legacy of the Cold War, Making a Real Killing deserves a place at the center of our attention. Len Ackland's integrity and hard work remind us how crucial energetic journalism is for a successful democracy.

-- Patricia Nelson Limerick
Legacy of Conquest



Table of Contents

I. Rich Pastures
II. Big Ed and the Bomb
III. A $45 Million Plant
IV. Behind the Fences
V. Neutrons Trotting Around
VI. Expect a Fire, but Produce
VII. Arms Race and Waste
VIII. Close Call -- The Mother's Day Fire



IX. A Magnet for Scientists and Activists
X. Local Hazard, Global Threat
XI. Under Siege
XII. Whistleblowers and the Feds
XIII. Shutdown
XIV. Infinity Rooms


About the Author

Len Ackland teaches journalism and directs the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He previously worked as a reporter at publications including the Des Moines Register and Chicago Tribune and was editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. His journalism honors include the George Polk Award and the National Magazine Award.



Photo: Author preparing for tour of former Rocky Flats production building


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About the Book | Praise for the Book | Table of Contents | About the Author

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