Welcome to A People's Atlas of Nuclear Colorado

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Sarah Kanouse, Denver Federal Center Visitor Entrance, 30 January 2016, Flickr

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Denver Federal Center

The Denver Federal Center (DFC) is a 623-acre campus that supports the operations of some 28 different federal agencies, ranging from the National Ice Core Laboratory to the Social Security Administration. It was established on the former site of the World War II-era Denver Ordnance Plant. Today, it also hosts Colorado’s only TRIGA reactor—a small-scale nuclear reactor used for research by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Colorado School of Mines.

Black and white image showing a fortified entrance the bade of a hill with buildings and cars in the background

Karen Waddell, Exterior of former Office of Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center at the Denver Federal Center, 1999, National Archives and Records Administration

From 1960-1969, the DFC was the Region 6 headquarters of Office of Civil Defense. The first of eight regional emergency operations center—designed to shelter state and local officials during an emergency—was constructed in a partially buried quonset hut at the DFC. In 1969, the Army Corps of Engineers completed an underground bunker complex on the site, designed to withstand a nuclear blast. The bunker—known as Building 710—could house 300 people for 30 days in the event of nuclear war. Both the original emergency operations center and the larger bunker complex are on the National Register of Historic Places as exemplars of the “Cold War Defense Structure” style of architecture. Building 710 now houses the Region VIII Office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Over the decades, several chemical leaks were reported, including a 2006 leak from a water storage tank containing radioactive material. Groundwater is contaminated in an underground plume spreading beyond the site’s eastern boundary. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found the southwest and northwest landfills to be significantly contaminated by hazardous waste. The army conducted remediation in the 1980s and again in the mid-2000s, prior to the transfer of 65 acres of DFC’s northwest side to the City of Lakewood for construction of a hospital and a regional park and ride.

Sources

Kay, Jason. "Denver Federal Center: 'Washington, D.C., West.'" Fedsmith.com. April 17, 2015. Accessed August 1, 2020.

U.S. General Services Administration. "Denver Federal Center." Accessed August 1, 2020.

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