Landowners awarded $554 million for nuke contamination from Rocky Flats

Thousands of Colorado downwinders got some vindication on Tuesday, when a jury ordered Dow Chemical and the former Rockwell International to pay $554 million in damages for plutonium contamination from Rocky Flats, a former nuclear weapons plant. It’s the largest civil verdict ever awarded in Colorado — likely to be reduced to around $353 million, as the jury’s award exceeds legal limits. The trial pitted more than 10,000 Denver-area property owners against the corporations, which contracted with the U.S. Department of Energy for decades to make plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads at Rocky Flats (closed in 1989, now being made into a wildlife refuge). The corporations claim the feds are responsible for paying the damages. Some observers think this massive award could crack typical DOE denials of responsibility for illness and pollution caused by its nuclear-weapons facilities — but others, more familiar with, you know, the real world, aren’t hopeful.