Radiation Compensation Payment Plan Criticized

Plutonium Exposure May Be Wider Than Estimated

Events Planned to Commemorate Trinity Day

* Compensation for sick nuclear weapons workers may move more slowly than expected due to poor records-keeping and an uncooperative Department of Energy (or DOE).

In order to pay the sick workers, the records of all those who have filed claims must be reviewed. These records are kept by DOE and must be requested for each employee before the claim can be settled. According to Larry Elliot, of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, accessing these records may be difficult, considering that the records are not organized, there is no time-limit for the DOE to provide the records, and DOE's history of halting investigators searching records. Elliot said, "I'm not na´ve enough to say we're not going to have any problems."

The compensation program, called the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, which is scheduled to begin July 31, calls for a $150,000 payment to workers suffering from illnesses due to work with nuclear materials. The program is focusing on workers suffering from beryllium disease and silicosis, but will also cover cancer patients if it can be proven that their cancer was caused by their work. To prove this, Elliot and his team must review each file, and calculate the exposure each worker received.

This process must be completed for thousands of weapons workers. There are 69,000 eligible current and former employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL) alone, where DOE is notorious for hindering records searches.

* Studies recently released show that workers exposed to plutonium may be much higher than expected due to a federal uranium recycling program that began in 1952, at nuclear facilities across the nation. Scientists only recently discovered that recycling natural uranium releases the impurities within, which include such contaminants as plutonium, neptunium, and technetium.

Studies released in 1999 show that over 250,000 tons of tainted uranium circulated among hundreds of private manufacturers, government plants, and university laboratories. There is a possibility that the workers at these sites face higher risks of developing cancer and other illnesses related to exposure. In regards to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, the government has promised to expedite claims for workers who handled the recycled uranium at the federal facilities where the problem first appeared.

* Please join the US Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and Peace Action New Mexico for events to commemorate Trinity Day. On Friday, July 13 at 9 AM at the College of Santa Fe, the Annual General Meeting of the US Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons will be held. At 7 PM there will be a screening of feature film Blue Sky, benefiting TEWA Women United. On Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15, Peace Action New Mexico will be hosting LANL 2001: Action for Abolition, a series of panel presentations and discussions. On Monday, July 16, there will be a rally and march that will begin at 11 AM at Ashley Pond in Los Alamos. The march to the LANL Administration Building will begin at 1 PM. For more information, please 989-4812.

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