Rocky Flats Plant, Emergency Medical Services Facility
HAER No. CO-83-S (Rocky Flats Plant, Building 122)
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.
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.
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 plants 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.
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
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:
||Office space addition.
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 Hospitals 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
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
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
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.
D. Jayne Aaron, Environmental Designer, engineering-environmental
Management, Inc. (e2M), 1997. Judith Berryman, Ph.D., Archaeologist, e2M,