Book Review, Family Relationships, Government Secrets, Nonfiction, Nuclear Plants

Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen


A shocking account of the government’s attempt to conceal the effects of the toxic waste released by a secret nuclear weapons plant in Colorado and a community’s vain search for justice—soon to be a feature documentary

Kristen Iversen grew up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated “the most contaminated site in America.” Full Body Burden is the story of a childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and–unknown to those who lived there–tainted with invisible yet deadly particles of plutonium. It’s also a book about the destructive power of secrets–both family and government. Her father’s hidden liquor bottles, the strange cancers in children in the neighborhood, the truth about what was made at Rocky Flats–best not to inquire too deeply into any of it. But as Iversen grew older, she began to ask questions and discovered some disturbing realities.

Based on extensive interviews, FBI and EPA documents, and class-action testimony, this taut, beautifully written book is both captivating and unnerving.


“Rocky Flats bills itself as one of the safest government facilities in the country…,  but “signs can lie”.   Kristen Iverson grew up in Arvada, Colorado, near the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, operated by Dow Chemical, which made plutonium “triggers” for nuclear bombs.  She had grown up hearing about deformed animals and people dying of cancer, but as most Rocky Flats employees and nearby neighborhoods thought, “the Government would tell us if something was wrong.” Scientific study reveals that radioactive waste can remain toxic for vast lengths of time.  For example, plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years.  Despite many attempts to expose Rocky Flats, it continued to poison people, places, and things for 40+ years.  Ms. Iversen’s story details this travesty of justice along with her personal account of growing up with an alcoholic father, an overly optimistic mother, siblings, and pets near Rocky Flats.

This well-researched, heart-wrenching story is an eye-opener and a must-read for everyone who believes in democracy and who is tired of corruption in government and big corporations.  It is a coming-of-age story of a young girl, her family, and thousands more in Colorado, kept in the dark about a death trap that is still simmering under the disguise of a public wildlife refuge for hiking and biking.

Please visit Kirsten Iversen’s web page at 

Thank you to Kristen Iversen, Crown Publishing Group, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this very important book.