Federal plan for nuke workers criticized

first_imgElliott said the guidelines would try to balance the need to rely on the radiation experts at the nuclear facilities for their knowledge of the sites with concerns about potential biases. He said it was difficult to find experts on the effects of radiation who were not tied to the government’s nuclear weapons program. “There is a limited pool of experts here,” he said. Kate Kimpan, who directs the contractor’s program, said her group will adhere to the guidelines and “ensure that our conclusions are beyond refute.” Five years ago, Congress decided to compensate the Cold War-era workers – tens of thousands of whom worked at sites nationwide – after the government admitted putting them at risk of cancer caused by radiation exposure. Sick workers get $150,000 plus medical benefits. The Oak Ridge, Tenn.-based contractor is writing reports that detail hazards at weapons facilities. The reports are blueprints the contractor is using to estimate how much radiation workers were exposed to. Critics say some of the authors appear biased. Kelly Schmidt, a worker and union leader at the Hanford site in Washington state, has complained that authors of the Hanford report managed important aspects of the radiation program there. Schmidt noted that a version of the report stated it was unlikely workers received large intakes of radiation that went unnoticed because there was “rigorous workplace monitoring” at Hanford. “It gives the impression that they’re saying, `Gosh, we did a great job,”‘ Schmidt said. NUCLEAR WORKER SITES The government contractor helping run a compensation program for sick nuclear weapons workers has written reports describing historical activities at the following sites – some federal, some commercial – that were hired to assist the government’s nuclear weapons program: Aliquippa Forge, in Aliquippa, Pa. Allied Chemical Corp., Metropolis, Ill. Santa Susana Field Laboratory, Simi Valley Argonne National Laboratory East, Argonne, Ill. Argonne National Laboratory West, Scoville, Idaho. Bethlehem Steel Company, Lackawanna, N.Y. Blockson Chemical Company, Joliet, Ill. Bridgeport Brass Company, Adrian, Mich. and Bridgeport, Conn. Chapman Valve, Indian Orchard, Mass. Feed Materials Production Center, Fernald, Ohio Hanford, Richland, Wash. Huntington Pilot Plant, Huntington, W.Va. Idaho National Laboratory, Scoville, Idaho Iowa Ordnance Plant, Burlington Iowa Kansas City Plant, Kansas City, Mo. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M. Linde Ceramics, Tonawanda, N.Y. Mallinckrodt Chemical Co., St. Louis. Mound Plant, Miamisburg, Ohio Nevada Test Site, Mercury, Nev. Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Oak Ridge, Tenn. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Wash. Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Paducah, Ky. Pantex Plant, Amarillo, Texas. Pinellas Plant, Clearwater, Fla. Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Piketon, Ohio Rocky Flats Plant, Golden, Colo. Savannah River Site, Aiken, S.C. Simonds Saw and Steel Co., Lockport, N.Y. Superior Steel Co., Carnegie, Pa. Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, Ala. Weldon Spring Plant, Weldon Spring, Mo. W.R. Grace, also known as Nuclear Fuels Services, Erwin, Tenn. Y-12 Plant, Oak Ridge, Tenn. Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – Associated Press160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventCritics contend that the contractor, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, has put into key jobs people who have managed radiation monitoring programs at the weapons sites. In some cases, those people were witnesses for the government when it fought compensation claims. Jim Melius, who is on a presidential advisory board that oversees the program, said, “It’s so critical for this program to be credible and for the claimants to have an understanding and confidence that the people who were monitoring them – and maybe in some cases failing to monitor them properly – will not be the people passing judgment on their exposures and on their compensation.” Nearly 73,000 workers or their survivors have filed claims under the program, according to the Labor Department. Government officials say they are preparing a policy that will spell out how the contractor should handle conflicts of interest. “It’s a very difficult, complex dilemma that we face,” said Larry Elliott, who heads the office of compensation in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The agency oversees the contract. WASHINGTON – For years, radiation experts at the nation’s nuclear weapons sites failed to adequately protect workers from on-the-job hazards. Now, some of those experts are helping run a compensation program for the workers. The situation has attracted the attention of Congress, with one lawmaker pressing for an investigation into whether the workers are being treated fairly. Rep. John Hostettler recently wrote to the investigative arm of Congress to ask whether the contractor running the compensation program has policies that are “sufficient to ensure that conflicts or biases do not taint the credibility and quality of the science produced to date.” Hostettler, R-Ind., is chairman of a House subcommittee that deals with people bringing claims against the government. last_img

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