1957 – A fire breaks out at Rocky Flats nuclear plant

Constructed in 1952 near Denver, Colorado, the Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant began production of bomb components, manufacturing plutonium triggers, or “pits” in 1953. By 1957, the plant had expanded to 27 buildings.

On the evening of September 11, 1957, a plutonium fire occurred in one of the gloveboxes used to handle radioactive materials, igniting the combustible rubber gloves and plexiglas windows of the box. Metallic plutonium is a fire hazard and pyrophoric; under the right conditions it may ignite in air at room temperature. The accident resulted in the contamination of Building 771 and caused US $818,600 in damage. It also occasioned the release of plutonium into the atmosphere, part of which blew over Denver. Although this particular event is not believed to have caused contamination, subsequent fires and leaks from the plant did.

Referenced in:
Cesspools in Eden — Dead Kennedys