Friday, March 10, 2000

Flats operation shut down

Colorado Daily Staff Report

Operations were shut down Tuesday in four nuclear buildings at Rocky Flats, the former nuclear-weapons plant south of Boulder, because of concerns that fire-suppression systems in the buildings might be inadequate.

The suspension of activities in buildings 707, 771, 774 and 776/777 were intended as a preventive measure, said the site's main contractor, Kaiser-Hill.

A fire-protection engineer discovered that "certain fire-suppression systems designed and installed in the early 1970s may not have adequate water pressure if simultaneously activated," according to a Kaiser-Hill news release.

Concerns about the systems first surfaced in January, and backup fire-suppression measures were implemented while the matter was reviewed, Kaiser-Hill said. Kaiser-Hill completed the review Tuesday and is now working to update the fire-suppression systems. Operations should resume later this month, the contractor said.

Major fires hit Building 771 in 1957 and Building 776/777 in 1969. The latter fire came close to releasing a cloud of airborne plutonium that could have contaminated the entire Denver area.