Kristen IversonMADISONVILLE, Ky. (3/31/14) — When one thinks of the word "collateral," associated words usually include assets, credit, loans; and, other words that describe forfeit of valuables.

What if, though, human lives were used as collateral?

Kristen Iversen describes just that in her book, "Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats."

Iversen tells her devastating story of growing up in Rocky Flats, a town in Colorado known for its major factory employment. These factories, however, were unlike any others; they were secret nuclear plants where employees made plutonium triggers for America’s cold war efforts.

Iversen calls the people that lived and worked in her town, 10 miles from Denver, “Cold War warriors”, referring to the overwhelming numbers of them diagnosed with cancers and birth defects due to radiation poisoning.

“So many have paid a devastating price,” said Iversen in an exclusive SurfKY interview. Iversen was in Madisonville to speak about her book to faculty, staff, students and community members at Madisonville Community College March 25. Her book was the text selected for MCC’s Common Reader project.

Iversen, herself, worked at the factory, not knowing that all the while, she was being exposed to 14.2 metric tons of plutonium, a chemical that caused her lymphoma diagnosis years later and thus resulting in her thyroid being removed.

Iversen quit her job at the factory after a 1994 episode of Nightline exposed the shady business to not only her but the entire world.

She explained that for years, if anyone talked about the cover-up, they were placed in jail; people were often afraid of the backlash. She said Colorado was "working hard to forget it," but she knew the story couldn’t be swept under the rug.

“I’m not saying anything new,” said Iversen. “All the information is just under one umbrella.”

Iversen told SurfKY that there is now Hollywood interest in her story; two documentaries have already mentioned her book.

Even though it is an exciting time for Iversen and her popular book, she is still concerned with the lives in her hometown.

A several thousand acre national wildlife refuge now exists in Rocky Flats — a setting that continues to deform animals and poison groundwater. Even with intense activism in the area, realtors continue to sell homes to unexpected buyers.

Iversen says all she wants as a result of her book is for there to be more public education; very few have full knowledge of the goings on at Rocky Flats.

“In this country, we can move forward even with the heavy cost for nuclear weapons and power production,” said Iversen to SurfKY News.

To order Kristen Iversen’s book, “Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadows of Rocky Flats” go to

Taylor Riley
SurfKY News

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