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Building 122

Rocky Flats Plant, Emergency Medical Services Facility
HAER No. CO-83-S (Rocky Flats Plant, Building 122) 

Location:
Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, Highway 93, Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado. Building 122 is located on the southwest corner of Central and Third avenues. Building 122 is connected to Building 121.

Date of Construction: 1953.

Fabricator: Austin Co., Cleveland, Ohio.

Present Owner: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Present Use: Emergency Medical Services.

Significance:
This building is a primary contributor of the Rocky Flats Plant historic district, and is associated with the U.S. strategy of nuclear military deterrence during the Cold War, a strategy considered of major importance in preventing Soviet nuclear attack. Building 122 housed the on-site medical facilities of the plant and the occupational health and internal dosimetry organizations. Emergency medical services, diagnosis, decontamination, first aid, x-ray, and minor surgical treatment were carried out in this building. In addition to providing medical care, personnel in this building conducted medical research and studies. Body counting was conducted in this building to measure radioactive material in the body.

Project Information:
In 1995, an inventory and an evaluation was conducted of facilities at the Rocky Flats Plant for their potential eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The primary goal of this investigation was to determine the significance of the Cold War era facilities at the plant in order to assess potential effects of the long-term goals and objectives of DOE. These goals and objectives have not been finalized, but include waste cleanup and demolition. Recommendations regarding National Register of Historic Places eligibility were developed to allow DOE to submit a formal determination of significance to the Colorado State Historic Preservation Officer for review and concurrence and to provide for management of historic properties at the plant.

From this determination and negotiations with the Colorado State Historic Preservation Officer, the Advisory Council, and the National Park Service, a Historic American Engineering Record project began in 1997 to document the plant’s resources prior to their demolition. The plant was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The archives for the Historic American Engineering Record project are located in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Introduction:
The plant is one of 13 DOE facilities that constitute the Nuclear Weapons Complex, which designed, manufactured, tested, and maintained weapons for the U.S. arsenal. The plant was established in 1951 to manufacture triggers for use in nuclear weapons and to recycle plutonium recovered from retired weapons. Each trigger consisted of a first-stage fission bomb that set off a second-stage fusion reaction in a hydrogen bomb. Parts were formed from plutonium, uranium, beryllium, stainless steel, and other materials.

A tense political atmosphere both at home and abroad during the Cold War years drove U.S. weapons research and development. By the 1970s, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union maintained thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at each other. These weapons were staged on submarines, aircraft, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Warsaw Pact countries in Europe had small nuclear warheads called theater weapons used as part of the Mutually Assured Destruction program. (The Mutually Assured Destruction program acted as a deterrent in that if one side attacked with nuclear weapons, the other would retaliate and both sides would perish.) The final nuclear weapons program at the plant was the W-88 nuclear warhead for the Trident II missile. This mission ended in 1992 when President Bush canceled production of the Trident II missile.

The plant was a top-secret weapons production plant, and employees worked with a recently man-made substance, plutonium, about which little was known concerning its chemistry, interactions with other materials, and shelf life. The Historic American Engineering Record documentation effort focused on four aspects of the plant and its role in the Nuclear Weapons Complex; manufacturing operations, research and development, health and safety of workers, and security.

Chronology of Building 122:
1953 Construction completed.  
1971 Addition.  
1973 Addition.  
1994 Office space addition.  

 

 

 

 

Building History:
Building 122 houses the on-site medical facilities of the plant and the occupational health and internal dosimetry organizations. Emergency medical services, diagnosis, decontamination, first aid, x-ray, minor surgical treatment, and ambulatory activities (including coordination with St. Anthony Hospital’s Flight for Life) are carried out in this building. The building also contains appropriate clinical and examination facilities to support routine employee and subcontractor physical examinations. Body counting is conducted in this building to measure radioactive material in the body. The facility contains three general areas: administration, internal dosimetry, and medical/health.

Building 122 is built on a concrete slab and is one-story high. The exterior walls are concrete and concrete block. The interior walls are primarily concrete block or gypsum board.

The body counting rooms are of special construction, designed to minimize external sources of radiation. The walls, floors, and ceilings of the body counting rooms are constructed of pre-World War II steel, and provided with graded shielding to eliminate external sources of radiation. Pre-war steel was used, since it is lower in radioactivity than steel created after World War II (not affected by nuclear fallout). Two of the body counting rooms are constructed of steel from battleship hulls, one of the rooms is constructed of steel from the wheels and axles of old freight cars. The graded shielding of lead, tin, and zinc eliminates radioactivity in the room from cosmic sources. When cosmic radiation hits the steel, an x-ray is emitted. This x-ray hits the lead lining of the room and is stopped. However, the lead lining then emits an x-ray of lower energy, which is stopped by the tin lining. Similarly, the tin lining emits an x-ray of even lower energy, which is stopped by the zinc lining. By this time, the energy is too low to create another emission. This shielding is necessary because of the extreme sensitivity of the body counting equipment.

Building 122 has two decontamination rooms with separate entrances. These rooms provide medical facility access to personnel that have potentially been exposed to radioactive contamination. Medical personnel attending these patients follow specific protective procedures ranging from cleaning with decontaminating solutions to donning respirators and protective suits.

To the west, Building 121 joins Building 122 and there is an L-shaped exterior area between the buildings at the north end. Emergency Exit 3 opens onto this area. The wall separating Building 122 from Building 121 is concrete. The roof is cast-in-place concrete over metal decking.

Historians:
D. Jayne Aaron, Environmental Designer, engineering-environmental Management, Inc. (e2M), 1997. Judith Berryman, Ph.D., Archaeologist, e2M, 1997.
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