Rockwell Bows Out as Operator of Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility

From Associated Press

The Energy Department announced Friday that Rockwell International Corp. will bow out as operator of the beleaguered Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant and a new company will take its place.

The action marks the final breach between Rockwell and the department, apparently over the growing problem of hazardous waste at the plant and responsibility for the disposal of that waste.

Energy Secretary James D. Watkins said in a statement from Washington that he and Rockwell Chairman Donald Beall had agreed to change Rocky Flats’ management “in the best interest of both parties.”

The statement said another government contractor, EG&G; Inc., a $1.4-billion scientific engineering firm based in Wellesley, Mass., had been asked to replace Rockwell.

EG&G; is the prime contractor for the department’s Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and is a contractor at the Nevada test site and government facilities in New Mexico. Company officials were not available for comment late Friday.


EG&G; issued no statement on the agreement. The company’s representatives were scheduled to be at the weapons plant on Monday, the Energy Department news release said.

Rockwell’s statement Friday said Rocky Flats’ current work force of 5,000 would not be affected by the change in management.

“Rockwell has agreed to continue operating the plant and to assist in the orderly transition,” the release said, adding that discussions among the Energy Department, Rockwell and EG&G; were scheduled to begin next week.

Rockwell sued the U.S. government on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, claiming that conflicting federal rules require it to violate hazardous waste disposal laws at the plant. The same day, the Environmental Protection Agency cited Rockwell for violating hazardous waste storage laws at Rocky Flats.

Rockwell has operated the plant 16 miles northwest of Denver since 1975, when it took over from Dow Chemical, which had been the operator since the plant opened in 1953. It is the nation’s only manufacturer of plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons.