Rocky Flats Fire Site
THE SEPTEMBER 1957 ROCKY FLATS FIRE:
A GUIDE TO RECORDS SERIES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
The primary purpose of this guide is to describe each series of records pertinent to the September 1957 fire at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Rocky Flats Plant, now named the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, near Denver, Colorado. The guide also provides information on the location and classification of the records and how they may be accessed. History Associates Incorporated (HAI) prepared this guide as part of its work as the support services contractor for DOE's Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project.
This introduction briefly describes the Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project, HAI's role in the project, the histories of the DOE and the Rocky Flats Plant, and the September 1957 fire. It provides information on the methodology used to inventory and describe records at the Denver Federal Records Center (DFRC) and records repositories at Rocky Flats. Other topics include the arrangement of the record series and information on accessing records repositories.
Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project
The Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project is indicative of DOE Secretary Hazel R. O'Leary's efforts to support openness initiatives in the areas of environment, safety, and health. In view of the importance of various administrative, organizational, and operational records to epidemiologic and health-related studies, a moratorium on the destruction of such records has been in effect since 1989.
In May 1992, the Office of Epidemiology and Health Surveillance (EH-42), responsible for the coordination of health-related activities throughout the DOE complex, directed each DOE and DOE contractor site to prepare an inventory of all records useful for worker or community health-related studies. EH-42 prepared and furnished each site with guidelines that defined epidemiologic records, provided instructions for describing record series, outlined the sites' role in inventorying epidemiologic records, and discussed the relationship of the epidemiologic inventory to DOE's comprehensive records inventory. The epidemiologic inventories should be completed in 1995. It should be noted, however, that some of the information contained in the site records inventories, such as the location of active (still in use) records or the volume of the records, may change over time. The continued usefulness of the inventories and this guide depends on their systematic update.
Role of HAI
In August 1993, DOE selected HAI as its support services contractor for the Epidemiologic Records Inventory Project. HAI, a professional records management, archives, and historical research services firm incorporated in 1981, has provided records management, historical research, and technical support for a number of DOE projects. HAI's role in the project includes verifying the accuracy, comprehensiveness, and quality of existing inventories, providing guidance to site records management teams, and, in some cases, preparing additional records inventories.
As part of its task to verify and conduct inventories of epidemiologic and health-related records at DOE and DOE contractor sites, HAI conducted a pilot study at the DOE Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site. The primary purpose of this project was to help DOE provide information relating to the 1957 fire, as requested by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and other stakeholders in meetings held during October 1993. As part of the project, HAI inventoried pertinent inactive records and identified protocols and restrictions governing access to them. HAI's work would not have been possible without DOE's commitment to openness and to facilitating access to these records.
As part of the Rocky Flats pilot project, HAI produced another guide, titled The Department of Energy's Rocky Flats Plant: A Guide to Record Series Useful for Health-Related Research, which researchers should consult for further information about records related to the Rocky Flats plant.
History of the DOE
The DOE is responsible for developing and administering national energy programs and policies. Authorized by Congress in 1977, the history of the department's predecessor agencies and functions dates back to 1942, with the establishment of the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The MED spearheaded the development and manufacture of the first atomic weapons during World War II. In 1946, Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act which reorganized the MED into the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Although the primary purpose of the AEC was to develop and manage the nation's expanding nuclear weapons production complex, the organization also reflected the nation's interest in developing broader commercial applications of atomic energy.(1)
For nearly three decades, the AEC directed the nation's nuclear program, from the development of nuclear weapons to the production of nuclear power. In 1974, Congress passed the Energy Reorganization Act, which split the AEC into the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). ERDA assumed responsibility for nuclear research and development and oversight of the nuclear weapons program, while the NRC licensed and regulated the industrial and commercial use of radionuclides and nuclear power. ERDA also took charge of the energy research and development programs of other federal agencies. The creation of ERDA represented the Nixon Administration's interest in establishing a centrally directed national energy policy. Events such as the 1973 Arab oil embargo and the 1973-1974 price increases instituted by OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] demonstrated the need to identify immediate energy needs and priorities and establish long range goals as a way to lessen the nation's dependency on foreign sources of energy.(2)
A shortage of natural gas during the winter of 1976-77 further exposed the nation's vulnerability as an energy consumer. In response to the crisis, the Carter Administration urged Congress to reorganize ERDA and establish a cabinet-level organization to direct national energy policy. In August 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation creating the DOE. During the late 1980s, with the easing of Cold War tensions, DOE restructured its priorities around nuclear waste management, environmental restoration, conservation, and the development of new energy sources.(3)
History of the Rocky Flats Site
Located in Golden, Colorado, the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site is situated on 384 acres amid a 6,550-acre natural preserve (buffer zone). The AEC chose the site because Rocky Flats possessed a dry, moderate climate, was isolated enough not to require the displacement of many people, and had a supporting population in the vicinity. The site also had "attractive environs" that would compensate the skilled personnel who would conduct the hazardous work at the plant.(4)
Operations at Rocky Flats began in 1952 to provide plutonium pits, or triggers, for hydrogen bombs after President Harry S. Truman ordered the AEC to accelerate development of thermonuclear weapons. Rocky Flats did the foundry and machine shop work needed to manufacture and assemble the pits into finished products and then shipped them to the DOE Pantex Facility near Amarillo, Texas, for final assembly. In addition, Rocky Flats performed plutonium recovery and waste management activities. Dow Chemical Company (1952-1975), Rockwell International Corporation (1975-December 31, 1989), and EG&G Corporation (January 1, 1990-1995) have operated the plant for DOE.(5)
On June 6, 1989, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the Rocky Flats Plant as part of its investigation of allegations of mismanagement, negligence, and criminal practices. On the first day of the raid, federal agents seized an unknown quantity of official DOE records without allowing photocopies to be made. Afterwards, records management personnel were able to make photocopies of other records being taken by the agents. Rockwell International, the plant operator at the time, eventually pled guilty to ten counts, including violations of the Clean Water Act, and agreed to pay a fine of $18.5 million.(6)
In September 1989, the Rocky Flats Plant was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency's national priorities list of Superfund hazardous waste sites. The plant ceased operations in November 1989 and began its transformation to a cleanup site in February 1992. The plutonium production facilities have been deactivated, and the plant site will eventually be decommissioned. Current principal program activities at Rocky Flats include safety, environmental protection, and environmental restoration.
Summary of September 1957 Fire
At 10:10 p.m. on September 11, 1957, the smell of burning rubber led two Rocky Flats Plant guards in Building 71 to a glovebox emitting eighteen-inch flames in Room 180. Their discovery occurred at the beginning of the first major plutonium fire in a United States weapons laboratory.(7)
At the time of the fire, Building 71 (also called "C Plant" and, later, Building 771) was an essential component of the Rocky Flats Plant. Designed for work with delta-phase plutonium, Building 71 opened in 1953 to recover plutonium for hydrogen bomb triggers. Afterwards, planning began for a new building to handle alpha-phase plutonium but, until it was ready, Dow constructed an interim facility in Room 180 of Building 71 to allow device work involving the more chemically reactive alpha-phase plutonium to proceed.(8)
Prior to the September 1957 fire, AEC and Rocky Flats officials had expressed concerns about the possibility of fires with such pyrophoric metals as plutonium (also fissionable and poisonous) and the flammable air filters in plutonium-handling facilities. Consequently, Building 71, a concrete structure with minimal combustible material in it, was designed to be fireproof but contained no automatic sprinklers, water standpipes, or floor drains because of potential contamination, accountability, and criticality problems. None of those features appeared to be necessary when Building 71 personnel coped with a fire in 1955 and a chemical explosion involving plutonium on June 14, 1957. The interim alpha-phase plutonium apparatus in Room 180 did use considerable amounts of flammable Plexiglas in dry box construction because of the difficulty in fabricating glass enclosures that could be made contamination-tight without breaking.(9) For ventilation crucial to plutonium processing, Building 71 employed an exhaust filter plenum, which was a long, concrete-block room containing 620 two-foot square Chemical Warfare Service filters vertically mounted in a structural steel framework. The individual exhaust systems discharged into the plenum; four exhaust fans connected to the filtered side of the plenum then directed the air into a common exhaust duct connected to a concrete tunnel and stack.(10)
The September 1957 fire, apparently caused by the spontaneous ignition of a small amount of alpha-plutonium turnings or skulls (metallic casting residues), soon spread along the Plexiglas and set off a chain of events. Additional building personnel and Rocky Flats Plant firefighters arrived at the scene of the fire two minutes after the guards alerted them, but the time they spent donning protective clothing and debating the best course of action delayed them from combating the flames for ten minutes. A fire department lieutenant wanted to douse the flames with water, but both a building production shift supervisor and a plant health physicist initially rejected that plan out of fear of inducing criticality. Workers tried, unsuccessfully, to put out the fire with available carbon dioxide extinguishers.(11)
Firefighters eventually sprayed water on the Room 180 fire and extinguished it safely. During that interval, however, unburned combustible gases apparently passed under pressure through ventilation ductwork and ignited the filters in the building's exhaust filter plenum. Minutes after firefighters put out the Room 180 fire, the exhaust system exploded. On order of the health physics supervisor, everyone evacuated the building to escape plutonium contamination, which spread throughout the building and out through the ventilation system. Outside the building, observers saw a "very dark" smoke plume, 80 to 100 feet high, billow from the stack. Arriving at the site after the evacuation, the section superintendent ordered the firefighters to concentrate on extinguishing the filter fire, although several minor rekindlings at the original site also occurred. At 11:10 p.m., Building 71's electrical power failed, the darkness hampering all efforts. By late the next morning, most of the filter bank and the alpha-phase interim facility in Room 180 had been destroyed.(12)
An early decision of consequence had been to order the exhaust fans run at high speed to protect personnel from contamination and toxic fumes in Room 180. But "the draft undoubtedly contributed to the intensity and spread of the fire in the filters." The burning of the combustible filters, in turn, permitted external escape of some plutonium contamination. Heat detecting equipment in the filter, which would have sounded an alarm and shut down the fan system, had been blocked earlier to "eliminate operating difficulties." In any case, the explosion stopped the fans after about fifteen minutes.(13)
During the final hours of the fire, Rocky Flats personnel discovered burning cylinders of nickel carbonyl inside the exhaust plenum and cooled them with water. The nickel carbonyl was used to provide a protective nickel coating to plutonium components so they could be handled in the open with less risk of personnel exposure to contamination or build up of static electricity. A production section superintendent subsequently directed employees to place all the carbonyl cylinders in drums and temporarily bury the drums outside in a pit.(14)
Thirteen hours after the guards first discovered flames, firefighters succeeded in totally extinguishing the fire at 11:28 a.m. on September 12.(15)
Monitoring for contamination began during the fire and continued on subsequent days. While the building was burning, plant officials dispatched an emergency monitoring team to areas in and around the complex. The monitoring team detected plutonium "at half tolerance" level on the plant site and found some "unidentifiable activity" that was barely detectable on Highway 72, south of the plant. Shortly after the sun rose on September 12, at the base of the stack, airborne activity "began to increase tremendously," but little fallout followed. That activity, at first worrisome, was later attributed to the radon decay chain. The monitors also collected samples in the direction of the smoke plume and were suspicious of "possible plutonium contamination" at three offsite and two plant locations. The Colorado Public Health Service in Denver reported no abnormal radioactivity.(16)
No serious injuries or deaths resulted directly from the fire. Rocky Flats health physicists tested building personnel and firemen for radioactive exposure immediately after the incident. The plant's director of health physics reported trace amounts of plutonium in eighty-eight nose and throat swipes. He later found plutonium in one urinalysis and in three fecal and two blood samples. A few weeks later, he declared that "for all practical purposes, the plutonium contamination resulting from the fire is negligible." In 1994, a Rocky Flats biomedical researcher, who was conducting a study of plutonium workers, was continuing to monitor six individuals whose careers included exposure to the 1957 fire.(17)
The cleanup of Building 71 started immediately after the fire ended. Enough restoration occurred to allow work to resume on a limited scale before the end of 1957, but cleanup efforts continued sporadically until early 1962. Ultimately it was estimated that the Building 71 fire cost $818,600 in property damage.(18)
In accordance with AEC requirements, a committee of Dow Chemical Company officials and the chief fire protection engineer from the AEC's Albuquerque Operations Office immediately investigated the fire. The investigators confirmed the location of the origin of the fire in an area where a mixture of alpha-plutonium skull and oil sludge, composed of alpha-plutonium fines suspended in cutting oil-carbon tetrachloride, were stored. They recommended the elimination of flammable materials in dry box construction and the use of flame-resistant filters, separation of plutonium storage and production areas, and improved sprinkler and other fire safety systems. They asked for basic research on the properties of alpha-phase plutonium and methods for controlling radioactive metal fires.(19)
After the Rocky Flats fire, the AEC devoted more attention to its plutonium fire hazard research program. Subsequently, the Commission sponsored studies of safer glovebox construction. While the AEC remained undecided on sprinkler systems because of possible filter damage, the headquarters safety and fire protection branch accelerated the replacement of combustible with noncombustible filters and increased provisions for automatic fire detection and controls in AEC facilities.(20)
Researchers should be aware that records are often housed according to whether they are active or inactive. Active records are necessary for conducting the current business of an office and, as such, must be maintained in office space. Inactive records are those which are no longer needed on a frequent basis. Inactive records may be housed in temporary storage facilities until they are either destroyed or sent to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for permanent retention.
NARA is responsible for overseeing the management of records by federal agencies and for storing federal records. Headquartered in Washington, DC, NARA operates regional branch offices. NARA and its branches permanently store valuable archival records and also assist patrons in conducting research in historical records. Permanent records, when transferred to NARA's Office of the National Archives, become the property of NARA. Most of the records retained by NARA are historical in nature. Researchers are not required to have the originating agency's approval to review unclassified records held by NARA.
In addition, NARA's Office of Federal Records Centers operates regional records centers. Federal agencies have the option of storing their inactive records at one or more of the federal records centers. The records stored in these facilities, however, remain the property of the agency. As such, they may be recalled by the custodial agency at any time, and may or may not be returned to the center. In addition, permission to review records stored in a federal records center must be granted by the custodial agency.
Rocky Flats' inactive records are housed in two main locations: the Building 881 Archives and the DFRC. To gain access to records stored at these locations, researchers must request permission from the DOE Records Management Department at Rocky Flats. The Building 881 Archives is a security-controlled area and researchers must hold a DOE Q clearance to use this facility.
Records related specifically to the Rocky Flats fire are also located at two DOE site offices, the Albuquerque Operations Office (AL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Records at AL are located in a security-controlled area; individuals are required to have a Q clearance in order to gain access. LANL's Archives are also security-controlled, and the site requires that researchers make prior arrangements to access the records.
At DOE Headquarters, records concerning the 1957 fire are located in the History Division and the Records Holding Area (RHA). Although DOE's Headquarters Building is access-controlled, uncleared researchers may enter the facility and view unclassified materials by contacting the History Division. Access to materials held in the RHA requires approval by the office which maintains custody of the records.
For specific information or permission to access Rocky Flats records, please contact the following:
U.S. Department of Energy
Records Management Department
Contracts and Services Division
Rocky Flats Office
P.O. Box 928
Golden, CO 80402-0928
Telephone Number: (303) 966-6177
Researchers should contact the following repositories for information relating to the records described in this guide:
Denver Federal Records Center
P.O. Box 25307
Denver, CO 80225
Telephone number: (303) 236-0804
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Laboratory Archivist/Historian's Office
P.O. Box 1663
Los Alamos, NM 87545
Telephone number: (505) 667-3809
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
Telephone Number: (301) 713-6800
National Archives and Records Administration-Rocky Mountain Region
P.O. Box 25307
Denver, CO 80225
Telephone Number: (303) 236-0817
U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585
Telephone Number: (301) 903-5431
U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585
Telephone Number: (301) 903-4310
U.S. Department of Energy
Safety Program Division
Albuquerque Operations Office
P.O. Box 5400
Albuquerque, NM 87185-5400
Telephone Number: (505) 845-4879
Washington National Records Center
4205 Suitland Road
Washington, DC 20409
Telephone Number: (301) 763-7000
Finding aids are indexes or other lists, whether manual or automatic, that are designed to help researchers locate relevant files or retrieve information.(21) The following are the most widely used finding aids for records concerning Rocky Flats.
Records Retention and Disposition Schedules
Records retention and disposition schedules are important resources for understanding the life cycle of records. Following an initial inventory and appraisal of an office's records, records management staff create schedules, the primary function of which is to provide the disposition authority that governs the length of time records are to be maintained. NARA reviews and approves the records retention and disposition schedules of all federal agencies.
Records scheduling at all DOE sites are governed by two main sets of guidelines: the General Records Schedules (GRS) and the DOE Records Schedules (DOERS).(22) The GRS provides retention periods for records that are common to all federal offices, such as those pertaining to procurement, civilian personnel, printing, communications, or other routine functions. The GRS does not address the disposition of DOE program records, which are unique to that agency. These records are regulated by the DOERS. The two records schedules should be considered together to gain an understanding of the universe of DOE recordkeeping requirements. For further information see NARA's Disposition of Federal Records and DOE Order 1324.2A.(23)
NARA Standard Form 135s
Federal records centers can provide the researcher with access to NARA Records Transmittals and Receipts (Standard Form 135s, hereafter referred to as NARA Standard Form 135) which are valuable research tools.(24) NARA Standard Form 135s are storage receipts which accompany inactive records transferred from the originating agency to the federal records center. They provide brief box lists, disposition authorities, accession numbers, dates of transfer, and an indication of volume for each accession. NARA Standard Form 135s also note whether the records have been permanently withdrawn by the originating agency from the federal records center. Researchers may examine the unclassified NARA Standard Form 135s without the permission of the agency that deposited the records. Examples of NARA Standard Form 135s are provided in Appendix A.
Records Storage Receipts
Records Storage Receipts are available for inactive records transferred to the Building 881 Archives. These receipts provide much of the same information found on the NARA Standard Form 135s. Researchers should be aware that a number of Records Storage Receipts are classified documents. Review of Records Storage Receipts governed by classification restrictions requires possession of a DOE Q clearance. Examples of Records Storage Receipts are also provided in Appendix A.
The DOE Records Management Department at Rocky Flats suggests the following procedures for obtaining copies of its and its contractors' records:
DOE's procedure on the photocopying of documents for the general public and the pedestrian researcher consists of presenting a written request to DOE outlining as much information as possible concerning the document, report, etc. The information should include the date, title of the document (or subject matter), and division responsible for receiving or generating the document. The written request must be addressed to the Records Management Department. Once the document is located and pulled, it is sent to the responsible division for the department manager's approval. If the department manager is hesitant to release a copy of the document, the document is sent to the Freedom of Information/ Privacy Act Officer for the final approval or denial. If approved, the document is shown to a classification officer for approval to be released. Once the document has met with complete agreement to be released, the document is sent to the public reading rooms where the requester is charged for the copy. FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] regulations state that any document containing less than 300 pages is free to the requester. Documents containing more than 300 pages to be copied will be charged the appropriate fees determined by the public reading room.
For any researcher who is onsite and locates a document that the researcher wants copied, the procedure is the same except that the document should be attached to the written request. If the document is less than three hundred pages and has been approved for release, it is then the Records Management Department's duty to inform the public reading room that the document is in the public domain and can be added to their document accountability system.
To prepare for the Rocky Flats pilot project, HAI reviewed Reconstruction of Historical Rocky Flats Operations & Identification of Release Points, prepared by ChemRisk in 1992.(25) From this report, HAI identified several record collections that might contain records on the fire. HAI also interviewed several people thought to be familiar with the event to determine the kinds of information available that would be of interest to historians and researchers.
HAI conducted telephone interviews with officials at AL, LANL, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Idaho National Engineering Laboratory for information on relevant records. In addition, HAI talked to officials at the DOE Environmental Measurements Laboratory in New York, the U.S. Transuranium and Uranium Registries in Richland, Washington, the Dallas/Fort Worth Federal Records Center, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver.
Using this background research, HAI developed criteria for the selection and identification of records related to the fire. These criteria were circulated among the stakeholders for review and comment. The selection criteria appear in Appendix B.
From information obtained from repositories at Rocky Flats, the DFRC, and collections in the Washington, DC, area, HAI developed a list of boxes potentially containing records relating to the fire. To develop this list, HAI requested and reviewed NARA Standard Form 135s to the records stored at the DFRC and the Records Storage Receipts for records held onsite at the Building 881 Archives. HAI also reviewed NARA Standard Form 135s at the Washington National Records Center at Suitland, Maryland, and indexes of the records of the AEC at NARA in Washington, DC.
At DOE headquarters in Germantown, Maryland, HAI examined several reference box lists, including those in the RHA and the History Division. HAI looked at the History Division's list of all executive secretariat holdings, including its Listing of Folders Entitled Rocky Flats. Additionally, HAI searched for information relating to the fire at the DOE Library and examined records of the ERDA at the NARA-Rocky Mountain branch. A list of additional sources of information is included in Appendix C. Appendix D is a list of collections that HAI searched, but which did not contain fire-related information.
While at Rocky Flats for a two-week period in March 1994, HAI interviewed several people who could identify the location of additional records pertaining to the fire. HAI inventoried several boxes located primarily at the Building 881 Archives and the DFRC. In addition, the HAI team conducted some research in active site records. While inventorying records, HAI personnel filled out inventory forms which underwent a series of onsite peer reviews to insure the accuracy and comprehensiveness of information collected.
In May 1994, HAI visited the AL and LANL archives for a two-day period to inventory records relating to the September 1957 fire at Rocky Flats identified via telephone conversations. In addition, HAI periodically encountered a small number of pertinent records during subsequent trips to Rocky Flats. The records series descriptions resulting from these trips have also been included within this guide.
Once the site visits were completed, HAI staff analyzed and compiled the inventory forms and wrote descriptive record series. After its review of records, HAI determined that several record series did not contain information directly related to the September 1957 fire. Descriptions of these record series are included in this guide separately as Appendix E for researchers who are interested in tangential information.
This guide reflects information collected from research conducted during site visits from March through October 1994. Users of this guide should note that omissions are likely due to the nature of the records targeted for research. For example, the June 6, 1989, seizure of records by the Federal Bureau of Investigation rendered an unknown quantity of records unavailable for review by HAI staff. Moreover, HAI team members did not inventory records stored in radiation-controlled areas. HAI relied on existing finding aids prepared for Rocky Flats records and was unable to verify that these research tools include all records that may exist. In addition, the repositories listed in this guide occasionally move boxes, change record locations, review records for changes in disposition authority, and even change the format of the records (i.e., from paper to microfilm).
HAI grouped the record series descriptions into six categories to facilitate research. A brief explanation of each category is as follows:
Chapter I: Administrative and General
This section pertains to the administration of individual contractor organizations and DOE divisions at Rocky Flats. It also contains records which encompass several different subject areas and therefore cannot be placed in a single category. Record series included in this section generally consist of correspondence, audit records, committee and meeting records, status reports, incident and accident records, and reading files.
Chapter II: Facilities and Equipment
This category relates to the routine construction and maintenance of plant buildings and the purchase and installation of equipment. Record series generally consist of inspection reports, project construction files, equipment operating manuals, and specifications.
Chapter III: Production and Materials Handling
Records in this category relate primarily to the inventory and production of nuclear materials and weapon components.
Record series found under this heading relate to the storage, handling, treatment, and disposal of radioactive, chemical, or mixed materials produced or used at Rocky Flats. Record series consist mostly of waste sampling and shipment records.
Chapter V: Workplace and Environmental Monitoring
The record series found in this section pertain to monitoring of the workplace. The section also includes records that document efforts to monitor the environment outside of buildings, either onsite or offsite. Records in this category are usually not specific to individual employees. Record series generally consist of sampling data and environmental impact reports.
Chapter VI: Employee Occupational Exposure and Health
This section pertains mostly to the health and occupational exposures of employees and visitors at Rocky Flats. Record series generally consist of dosimeter data, radiation exposure records, and medical records. Many of the records contain personal data pertaining to individual employees and may therefore be Privacy Act Systems of Records.
Record series descriptions included in each category shown above contain sixteen major data items. Each item is listed alphabetically and further explained below:
Because the Rocky Flats Plant is an access-controlled area, researchers must arrange for access before planning to visit the site. In addition, some unclassified records are stored in restricted buildings at Rocky Flats which cannot be entered without having the proper security clearances. Researchers should also be aware that access procedures at the plant are presently undergoing reevaluation due to changing priorities and openness initiatives.
Access restrictions apply to some of the record series found within the guide. Record series containing documents that are classified for national security reasons require an individual to have a DOE Q clearance and a need-to-know for access. Need-to-know applies to classified records only; individuals holding clearances must be granted need-to-know by the office responsible for granting access to the records. Personnel and other employee files may contain information which is protected in a Privacy Act System of Records and may not be available for public inspection. HAI has noted which record series may fall under the Privacy Act. (26)
Certain DOE records, though unclassified, are considered sensitive. These records may include designations such as Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information (UCNI) and Official Use Only (OUO). Researchers interested in gaining access to unclassified sensitive records should consult the DOE Records Management Department for further guidance.
To assist researchers and others in understanding the types of classified information and restrictions that govern access, the following excerpts from the DOE's Understanding Classification (June 1987) are provided(27)
Categories of Classified Information
There are three categories of classified information: Restricted Data; Formerly Restricted Data; and National Security Information.
1. RESTRICTED DATA (RD) is a special category of classified information with which the DOE is principally concerned. The Restricted Data category is defined in the Atomic Energy Act as follows:
The term RESTRICTED DATA means all data concerning (1) the design, manufacture, or utilization of atomic weapons; (2) the production of special nuclear material; or (3) the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy, but shall not include data declassified or removed from the Restricted Data category pursuant to section 142.
2. FORMERLY RESTRICTED DATA (FRD) is information which has been removed from the Restricted Data category after the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have jointly determined that the information relates primarily to the military utilization of atomic weapons and can be adequately safeguarded in the same manner as National Security Information in the United States. This is known as transclassification. Such data may not be given to any other nation except under specially approved agreements.
3. NATIONAL SECURITY INFORMATION (NSI) is information which requires protection against unauthorized disclosure in the interest of the national defense or foreign relations of the United States and has been determined to be classified in accordance with the provisions of Executive Order 12356 or a prior Executive order.(28)
Levels of Classified Information
There are three levels of classified information: Top Secret; Secret; and Confidential.
1. TOP SECRET is the level assigned to information of utmost importance to the national defense and security. Its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security.
2. SECRET is the level for information which, in the event of an unauthorized disclosure, could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security.
3. CONFIDENTIAL is the level for information which, in the event of unauthorized disclosure, could reasonably be expected to cause damage to national security.
For further information, see DOE Order 5635.4 and DOE Office of Security Affairs, Headquarters, Security Education Overview Handbook (DOE/SA-0004).(29)
Accession/Other Identification Number
Accession or identification numbers assigned by records custodians are listed here.
HAI has described the arrangement of the record series, for example chronological or alphabetical, when possible.
HAI judged the physical condition of record series, categorizing them as either good, fair, or poor. Records are rated poor when they contain aged and faded typewritten originals or photocopies, illegible and faded handwritten copies, or badly torn or damaged documents. Examples include deteriorating X-rays, water-damaged photographs, or fading 30-year-old photocopies. Records are rated fair when documents are older but are not too damaged or faded to be read or viewed clearly. Examples include 15-year-old photocopies, legible handwritten journals, or slightly torn but readable onionskin copies. Records are rated good when they contain current photocopies, well-kept originals on quality paper, and undamaged, clear, and dark print copies of documents. Examples include original letters on bond paper, 5-year-old photocopies, or well-preserved microfilm or photographs.
Most inactive records are stored in standard containers that hold one cubic foot of documents. HAI recorded the container number as part of the record description. Other types of record containers, such as binders and file cabinets are described as completely as possible.
In accordance with the guidelines in Information Required by the Department of Energy for Epidemiologic and Health Studies, DOE developed a list of 123 data elements to assign to record series descriptions. In general, the data elements consist of terms pertaining to contractor organizations, individual employees, industrial hygiene activities, and facility characteristics that help describe the major information contained in a record series.
During the course of HAI's inventory work at Rocky Flats, the DOE and HAI jointly developed a revised list which contains 86 data elements. The list has been reorganized in a topical manner in order to facilitate inventory work. In addition, the revised list includes a new data element (124) for onsite sampling. The HAI team, as part of its inventory and description of records, determined which data elements were pertinent to each record series for both active and inactive records. Both lists of data elements are included as part of this guide in Appendix F. Please note that the revised list is arranged topically, not numerically.
The data elements that HAI considered pertinent to the record series are listed in numerical order at the end of the records series descriptions. The numbers correspond to the revised data elements list.
Disposition authorities cited refer to the GRS and DOERS. The schedule number and item number are provided when one has been assigned by the appropriate records management organization. For instance, the disposition authority GRS 3.8b refers to schedule 3, item 8b. GRS disposition authorities cited as GRSX refer to schedules which have been rescinded by NARA, but not replaced.
For records scheduled according to DOERS, the schedule number and item number are provided (e.g., DOE (1988) 7.9b, refers to schedule 7, item 9b). HAI has also indicated when the citation corresponds to DOERS version dated 1980 (DOE Order 1324.2) or 1988 (DOE Order 1324.2A). Before a record series is assigned a disposition authority under the DOERS, NARA assigns an interim schedule number which begins with the internal classification "N1." Researchers should note that disposition authorities beginning with "N1" are pending approval by NARA. Disposition authorities prefaced by the letter "C," such as DOE (1980) C16.5b, correspond to the DOE Contractor Records Schedules.
At other times, HAI has made note of records with disposition authorities different from the GRS or DOERS. Often these correspond to records schedules maintained by contracting organizations. Examples are: "75 years," "until dismantlement of facility," or "6 months after removal from stockpile." For other records, HAI found it necessary to indicate "unscheduled" or "records schedule under revision."
Some records may exist elsewhere in a duplicate format, such as on recording tape or microfilm. If the exact whereabouts of the duplication is known, HAI has provided this information. For all other cases, "unknown" is used.
HAI has indicated whether a finding aid exists for each record series. In the case of inactive records stored at the DFRC, NARA Standard Form 135s are the main finding aids. Records Storage Receipts are the finding aids for records located in the Building 881 Archives.
Information on the physical location of the record series and an indication of its status, active or inactive, are found here. HAI has listed records first by the plant abbreviation (RF), then by building, and room number. Abbreviations for the Denver Federal Records Center (DFRC) and the Building 881 Archives (RF-881 Archives, Room 214) have been used consistently throughout the guide.
The physical nature of the records, such as paper, microfilm, or audiovisual, is noted.
HAI has provided the originating office of the organization (e.g., Medical, Health, and Safety Division, Dow Chemical Company) under this heading. Researchers should be aware that the office or organization which created the records may not be the entity that controls access to the records. Access to the records is controlled by the office with custody over the records.
HAI has indicated when records are suitable or not suitable for optical scanning. In instances where records are not clearly suitable, HAI has provided descriptions of materials that may prove problematic for some scanners. This statement may not be accurate in the future as the state-of-the-art in scanning technology continues to evolve. See Appendix G for guidelines used by HAI to determine scanning suitability.
The series description provides, in narrative format, essential information concerning the content of the records, the reasons for their creation, and the manner in which they were used. In some cases, the series descriptions contain cross references to related records described elsewhere in the guide.
Title and Inclusive Dates
Each record series description begins with a title that reflects the content of the record series and the dates that the records span.
The approximate volume of the record series is provided in cubic feet. Records stored at federal records centers are usually kept in standard one-cubic foot archival boxes which measure 15 inches (length) by 12 inches (width) by 10.5 inches (height). For records housed in file cabinets, on shelves, or in containers other than standard one-cubic foot archival boxes, 12 inches of records roughly equals one cubic foot. For example, a standard file cabinet drawer measures approximately two cubic feet.
1. Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson, A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Vol. 1, The New World, 1939-1946 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962); Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan, A History of the Atomic Energy Commission, Vol. 2, Atomic Shield, 1947-1952 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1969); Charles W. Johnson and Charles O. Jackson, City Behind a Fence: Oak Ridge Tennessee, 1942-1946 (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1981); Vincent C. Jones, Manhattan: The Army and the Atomic Bomb (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center for Military History, 1984); James W. Kunetka, City of Fire: Los Alamos and the Atomic Age, 1943-1945 (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1979); Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1986).
2. Richard G. Hewlett and Jack M. Holl, A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Vol. 3, Atoms for Peace and War: Eisenhower and the Atomic Energy Commission, 1953-1961 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989); Richard G. Hewlett and B.J. Dierenfield, The Federal Role and Activities in Energy Research and Development, 1946-1980: An Historical Summary (Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1983).
3. Terrence R. Fehner and Jack M. Holl, The United States Department of Energy: An Historical Summary, 1977-1994 (Washington, DC: United States Department of Energy, History Division, 1994).
4. Michelle A. Hanson, "Site History of Rocky Flats" (Washington, DC: United States Department of Energy, History Division, January 1993), 1-7.
5. Ibid., 1-7.
6. Clean Water Act of 1972 (Public Law 92-500), as amended by the Water Quality Act of 1987 (Public Law 100-4).
7. The Dow Chemical Company Rocky Flats Plant, Report of Investigation of Serious Incident in Building 71 on September 11, 1957 (October 7, 1957), 50, 55; United States Atomic Energy Commission, Division of Operational Safety, Operational Accidents and Radiation Exposure Experience within the United States Atomic Energy Commission 1943-1975 (Washington, DC: United States Atomic Energy Commission, WASH 1192), 21.
8. Report of Investigation, 9-11, 17. ChemRisk, Reconstruction of Historical Rocky Flats Operations & Identification of Release Points, Project Tasks 3 & 4, Final Draft Report (August 1992), 72.
9. United States Atomic Energy Commission, "Small Metallic Plutonium Fire Leads to Major Property Damage Loss," Serious Accidents 130 (November 27, 1957): 3; R. J. Walker, "Air Cleaning Operations at the Rocky Flats Plant," Fifth Atomic Energy Commission Air Cleaning Conference Held at the Harvard Air Cleaning Laboratory, June 24-27, 1957 (Report No. TID-7551).
10. Report of Investigation, 10.
11. Report of Investigation, 15-16, 59-60, 62. "Small Metallic Plutonium Fires," 2.
12. Report of Investigation, 15-17, 54, 64. ChemRisk, Reconstruction of Historical Operations, 222, citing C. W. Barrick study of 1981.
13. Report of Investigation, 15-16, 18. ChemRisk, Reconstruction of Historical Operations, 222-23.
14. Report of Investigation, 69-71. ChemRisk, Reconstruction of Historical Operations, 78.
15. Report of Investigation, 17.
16. Ibid., 76-77.
17. Ibid., 76-77; interview with a biomedical researcher at Rocky Flats on March 8, 1994.
18. Interview with the Building 771 residue operations manager at Rocky Flats, March 10, 1994. United States Atomic Energy Commission, Division of Operational Safety, Operational Accidents, 21.
19. Report of Investigation, 23-24.
20. "Small Metallic Plutonium Fire," 4-5.
21. National Archives and Records Administration, NARA and the Disposition of Federal Records: Laws and Authorities and Their Implementation (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1989), D-7.
22. National Archives and Records Administration, Office of Records Administration. General Records Schedules (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1992). (To obtain a copy, contact National Archives and Records Administration, Office of Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408); United States Department of Energy, DOE Order 1324.2, Records Disposition (May 28, 1980), as amended by DOE Order 1324.2A (September 13, 1988). DOE Order 1324.2A was rescinded in January 1995.
23. NARA and the Disposition of Federal Records; DOE Order 1324.2A.
24. Records Transmittal and Receipt (NARA Standard Form 135) [FPMR (41 CFR) 101-11.4], June 1961, revised 1985 (36 CFR 1228.152).
25. ChemRisk, Reconstruction of Historical Operations.
26. United States Department of Energy, "Privacy Act of 1974; Publication of System Notice," Federal Register 47, No. 64 (April 2, 1982); "Privacy Act of 1974; Amendment of System Notices and New Routine Use Statement," Federal Register 50, No. 35 (February 21, 1985). See also, Privacy Act of 1974 [Public Law 93-579 (Title 5 USC 552a)], as amended.
27. United States Department of Energy, Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, Office of Classification, Understanding Classification [Washington, DC: United States Department of Energy (DOE/DP-0007/1), June 1987].
28. "Executive Order 12356," Federal Register 47, No. 64 (April 2, 1982): 14874.
29. United States Department of Energy, Office of Security Affairs, Headquarters. Security Education Overview Handbook [Washington, DC: United States Department of Energy (DOE/SA-0004), undated].