Uranium Enrichment Newsletter, December, 1999

The Uranium Enrichment Project plans to publish a monthly online newsletter summarizing events within the US uranium enrichment establishment. In this first issue, we go over major events since the Washington Post first publicized plutonium contamination at the Paducah gaseous diffusion plant. Each later issue will be largely concerned with a single month. The articles in this December  issue were written by Matthew Patterson. A grant from The John Merck Fund makes the newsletter possible. Comments and suggestions are welcome. They should be sent to the editor, Mary Byrd Davis.


The USEC Bailout

The United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) says that the continued viability of their gaseous diffusion plants is at risk because of its imports of Russian enriched uranium. The U.S.-Russian HEU agreement signed by President Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in 1993 requires USEC to purchase more than 1 million pounds of enriched uranium from Russia over the next 20 years, but USEC claims it is paying $8 more per unit of enriched uranium than the current market price ($88 vs. $80). Consequently, USEC requested $200 million from tax payers to offset losses incurred from purchasing the nuclear material from Russia (Katherine Rizzo, AP, 11/4/99). In negotiations this November with federal officials, USEC lowered its bail out request to $135 million and was reportedly ready to settle for $108 million. Federal officials, however, rejected the plan because USEC refused to guarantee the protection of worker jobs at the Piketon and Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plants. USEC's bail out attempts fell short when the House adjourned for the year (Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch 11/17 and 19/99).

In an attempt to negotiate the bail out, USEC threatened to end its role as the executive agent for the U.S.-Russia HEU agreement. Energy secretary Bill Richardson replied to the threat by saying "If USEC threatens to bail out on the uranium deal, we'll find other avenues. That's not a threat that will go very far with me." (Martha Hamilton, Washington Post, 11/19/99). While the Clinton administration searched for potential candidates to replace USEC, it continued efforts to prevent USEC's withdrawal from the U.S. Russia agreement by offering incentives up to $70 million dollars including $30 million in appropriations and a transfer of liability for depleted uranium worth $40 million. U.S. Representative Tom Bliley, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, however, said the offer may require Congressional approval ( Bill Bartleman, Paducah Sun Times, 11/20/99).

Critics of the bail out include Energy secretary Bill Richardson who says that the $200 million request is based on "questionable assumptions and very general data" ( Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, 11/4/99). U.S. Representative Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, also criticized the bail out by saying USEC knew what it was getting into when it was privatized. In addition, Strickland pointed out that USEC spent $100 million to buy back stock and improve per-share stock prices and is paying shareholders $100 million in dividends (Martha Hamilton, Washington Post, 11/19/99).

Many critics charge that USEC would not be concerned with profits while carrying out a national security initiative if it had never been allowed to privatize. In fact, this August the House Commerce Committee began an investigation into the $1.9 billion deal after confidential documents revealed some members of the board had serious concerns about USEC privatization. U.S. Representative Tom Bliley, R-VA, said "I have concerns about whether our nation security was compromised and the long-term viability of uranium production jeopardized as a result of USEC privatization" (Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, 8/1/99).

On December 1, USEC's board voted to continue serving as the executive agent of the U.S.-Russia HEU agreement until the end of 2001 despite company estimates that the move will result in a $10 million loss of earnings next year (Martha Hamilton, Washington Post, 12/2/99). Officials for the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Union expect the decision will cause mass layoffs at the Paducah and Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plants. In fact, a USEC lobbyist told the union that a loss of 850 jobs may occur regardless of the decision (Associated Press, 12/2/99).



Proposal for Use of Depleted Uranium Stocks

On July 30, 1999, the Department of Energy (DOE) released its Record of Decision for Long-Term Management of and Use of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride. The document announces a decision to convert the 560,000 metric tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride that DOE stores at its Gaseous Diffusion Plants in Paducah, KY, Portsmouth, OH, and Oak Ridge, TN to uranium oxide, depleted uranium metal or a combination of both. DOE also released on July 30 a draft Request for Proposals for conversion and use of the depleted uranium. The draft RFP received numerous comments from industry organizations and representatives of the impacted communities. Consequently, a new draft will be released in December and a final draft will be released after a short comment period. To be kept up to date on new developments regarding the RFP you can get on the DUF6 Management Program mailing list at http://web.ead.anl.gov/uranium/indexnav.cfm, then select Mail Services and fill out the registration form. If you do not have access to the internet you can be added to the mailing list by contacting Ms. Julie Simmons.


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August 8, 1999

An article in the Washington Post reveals that workers at the DOE-owned gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, Kentucky were exposed to dangerous fission byproducts without their knowledge. The Paducah plant which was only designed to handle natural and low-enriched uranium, apparently received 103,000 metric tons of uranium from irradiated reactor fuel over a 23 year period from 1953 to 1976. The irradiated uranium, sent to Paducah for recycling through the enrichment process, was estimated by a contractor to contain 12 ounces of plutonium, 40 pounds of neptunium, and 1,320 pounds of technetium-99. Plutonium is approximately 100,000 times more radioactive than uranium and can cause cancer if ingested in quantities as small as a millionth of an ounce. The contaminated uranium spilled into local waterways and was deliberately dumped into fields and a nearby landfill. The author of the article, Joby Warrick, drew information from documents filed in a lawsuit being brought by three current workers against plant operators Lockheed Martin and Martin Marietta (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 8/8/99).

August 9, 1999

Energy secretary Bill Richardson calls for the National Academy of Sciences to examine possible links between illnesses at the plant and radioactive exposure. Richardson also calls for expanded health screening and medical treatment for the workers (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 8/9/99).

August 12, 1999

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell visits the Paducah plant and announces that he wants to chair a congressional sub-committee hearing regarding the contamination.

August 13, 1999

A DOE contractor discovers two missing documents that show plutonium contamination in nine water samples collected from storm water ditches that drain into nearby creeks. According to Kentucky's chief radiation health expert, the contamination is similar to levels in other parts of the state and poses no significant risk to the public. Additional reports, brought to light, show elevated levels of radioactivity in groundwater as early as 1977 and radioactivity in a residential well that was seven times the state drinking water standards in 1983. Unfortunately, the well was never retested. (Associated Press, 8/13/99)

An associated press article reveals that Joseph Eagan, a Washington lawyer, informed aides for the Kentucky Attorney General and state environmental and health officials in October 1998 that a creek near the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant was contaminated with plutonium. No action was taken because the Kentucky Natural Resources Cabinet was already aware of the contamination (Associated Press, 8/13/99).

August 14, 1999

Ronald Fowler, a radiation safety technician at the Paducah plant, claims pieces of gold were stripped from retired nuclear warheads during dismantlement, smelted into shiny ingots, and injected into commercial markets without proper screening for radioactive contamination (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 8/14/99). DOE officials acknowledge that gold was recovered from nuclear weapons, but DOE emphasized that licenses require that "any metals released for unrestricted use will not pose a risk to human health or the environment".

August 17, 1999

Kentucky Governor Paul Patton and other state, federal, and plant officials tour the Paducah plant and Patton appoints top state officials to complete an investigation separate from investigations carried out by DOE.

August 22, 1999

The Washington Post reveals that the results of posthumous tests on former plant worker Joseph Harding are strong evidence for the contamination of workers at Paducah. Harding’s bones contain uranium “far in excess of normal expectations,” Alice Stewart, a British researcher who reviewed the results, wrote. The posthumous tests were conducted for a 1983 lawsuit but the results were not made public at the time (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 8/22/99).

August 30, 1999

Soil samples collected by Charles Deuschle from the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area near the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant contained six radioactive isotopes that exceed federal standards according to the lawsuit filed by former plant employees on June 1, 1999 (Bruce Auster, U.S. News, 8/30/99).

September 2, 1999

Radioactive waste is discovered in an unauthorized burial ground 1/4 mile outside the grounds at the Paducah plant. The radioactivity is nine times the "action level", the level at which emergency action is taken to seal the contamination inside a facility (Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 9/2/99).

September 3, 1999

Fourteen employees of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant file a suit on behalf of all current and former plant employees seeking $10 billion in damages. Targets of the suit include the contractors Lockheed Martin Corporation and Union Carbide, and the producer of the irradiated uranium, General Electric Company. The suit includes three primary allegations: 1) unjust profits at the expense of monitoring and protecting the workers, 2) battery through extreme exposure of workers to radioactivity, and 3) risk to families caused by workers carrying radiation into the home attached to their skin and clothes (Associated Press, 9/3/99).

Beryllium was used at the Paducah plant according to an old DOE memorandum. If inhaled or ingested, beryllium can be extremely toxic and may result in chronic or sometimes fatal lung ailments.

September 9, 1999

A preliminary probe by DOE that shows inadequate programs designed to protect Paducah workers from radiation inspires DOE secretary Bill Richardson to order a 24 hour safety stand down at the plant. The probe revealed that several clean up programs had been stopped because workers were working in contaminated areas without training or safety badges (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, (9/9/99).

September 11, 1999

George Benedict, the Energy Department Assistant Manager for Uranium and Engineering Services, is reported to have admitted that an internal report obtained from the Department of Energy is authentic. The report, the work of a team that investigated Paducah for two weeks in the summer, criticizes the Paducah management for the sale of metal vats (used to make fluorine) that contained detectable levels of plutonium. Other criticisms include inadequate long-term storage of depleted uranium and treatment of contaminated ground water, failure to mark contaminated areas on and off site, and a lack of accountability for radiation protection (James Malone, Courier Journal, Washington Post, 9/11/99).

September 16, 1999

Internal documents show that the Atomic Energy Commission was concerned about workers handling contaminated uranium at the Paducah plant as early as 1960. Union Carbide Corporation, however, reportedly refused to conduct tests in an effort to avoid paying hazard wages (Associated Press, 9/16/99).

Officials for the Clinton Administration propose the allocation of tens of millions of dollars to compensate workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant who have types of cancer linked to radiation. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson proposed $21.8 million to help pay for medical monitoring.

September 17, 1999

Visiting Paducah, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson gives workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant an official apology by saying "On behalf of the U.S. government, I am here to say I'm sorry". (James Pritchard, Associated Press, 9/16/99)

September 19, 1999

Steven Wyatt, a DOE spokesperson, reveals that a 1985 report by a DOE task force shows plutonium levels in ash collected from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant to be 700 times higher than acceptable limits for handling without training and protection (Associated Press, 9/19/99).

September 20, 1999

Senate Hearings lead by U.S. Senator Jim Bunning were held at the Fine Arts Center at Paducah Community College. Testimony was given by David Sadler, DOE’s acting deputy assistant secretary for oversight in the Office of Environment, Safety, and Health, Joseph Nemec, president of Betchel Jacobs, and several plant workers (Bill Bartleman, Paducah Sun, 9/18/99)

September 22, 1999

Governor Paul Patton urges Washington officials to change the cleanup deadline at the Paducah plant from 2010 to 2007 and requests an additional $63 million in funding for the cleanup (James Carroll, Courier Journal, 9/22/99).

September 23, 1999

The House Commerce Committee’s investigations and oversight committee began hearings in the Rayburn House Office Building to probe safety problems at the Paducah uranium enrichment facility. Ron Fowler, a former employee at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant, testified that before the plant continues to have safety problems including 1) near donation of a contaminated computer to a local school, 2) failure of some workers to complete training due to functional illiteracy and the inability to read safety signs, 3) clean up teams being sent into contaminated buildings without protective breathing equipment, and 4) a lack of radioactive monitoring equipment in the cafeteria (James Carroll, Courier Journal, 9/23/99).

September 26, 1999

An article in the Courier Journal recounts that despite warnings from plant engineers, a corroded steel and plastic drum exploded on September 15, 1997 and a foaming mixture of nitric acid and radioactive waste splashed onto the ceilings and walls of Building C-746-Q. The mixture ate holes in the floor and the cleanup took two years to complete. During an investigation of the accident, Lockheed Martin discovered about 50 drums of radioactive waste that could potentially burst. Currently, the Paducah plant has tens of thousands of drums of waste and 40,000 drums of depleted uranium stored on site (James Malone, Courier Journal, 9/26/99).

September 29, 1999

The $ 63 million requested by Kentucky Governor Paul Patton for the clean up of radioactive waste at the gaseous diffusion plants in Paducah, KY and Portsmouth, OH is approved by Congress. The money will be used for analyzing current waste problems, clean up, and expanded medical testing for current employees (Associated Press, 9/29/99).

October 4, 1999

Of the $388 million allocated to the Paducah plant in the last 12 years, only $106.9 million has been spent on actual clean up, an Associated Press article reports. Evaluating waste problems, storage, monitoring, and administrative costs utilized the remaining $281.1 million (Associated Press, 10/4/99).

October 21, 1999

The Department of Energy releases the report of the first phase of its investigation of the environmental conditions at the Paducah Plant entitled "Phase I Investigation of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant: Environmental, Safety, and Health Issues". DOE listed 14 specific issues that need attention including 1) failure of plant contractors to warn the public about plutonium contamination in ditches around the plant, 2) risk of an accidental nuclear chain reaction due to the storage of large amounts of depleted uranium, 3) plutonium contamination in the groundwater, ditches, and streams around the plant, and 4) inadequate oversight of safety issues by DOE and Betchel Jacobs. For a complete list of the 14 issues please visit the web at http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/news/nn10278.htm (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 10/21/99).

The Department of Energy will also investigate conditions at the Portsmouth and Oak Ridge gaseous diffusion plants.

October 27, 1999

Elizabeth Huntoon, DOE assistant secretary of the Office of Environmental Management says that an additional $5 million dollars has been added to the federal budget by Congress to ensure that Drum Mountain will be cleaned up by the year 2000. Drum Mountain is a literal mountain of waste located on the grounds of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant. It contains thousands of crushed drums contaminated with uranium dust (Bill Bartleman, Paducah Sun, 10/27/99).

October 27, 1999

Officials of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announce that, following an investigation of practices at the Paducah plant, they are generally pleased with the way that USEC operates it, although there is room for improvement (James Prichard, Associated Press, 11/27/99)

October 28, 1999

Dr. Steven Markowitz, the physician in charge of worker health studies for the Former Worker Medical Surveillance Program at US Department of Energy Gaseous Diffusion Plants, said that limited findings show workers suffering from hearing loss, scarring of the lungs from asbestos exposure, emphysema, and cancer. However, inadequate funding does not currently allow Markowitz to test for lung cancer, the most important specific cancer risk for plant workers. In addition, only 450 of the 15,000 current and former employees have been tested (Bill Bartleman, Paducah Sun, 10/28/99).

November 1, 1999

The prospects for receiving additional funds for clean up at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant are not very bright considering the competition for funds. The Department of Energy spends 3/4 of its environmental clean up money on the nation's 10 worst nuclear waste sites, and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington alone will receive $1 billion in the year 2000. The remaining funds are divide among 55 other nuclear projects including Paducah which is currently ranked 15th in money being spent (James Carroll, Courier Journal, 11/1/99).

November 5, 1999

Rubble that was dumped at the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area with the state's permission is contaminated with plutonium, neptunium, uranium, and cesium at or near background levels. Earlier reports showed that deer killed in the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area had traces of plutonium in the liver (James Malone, Courier Journal, 11/5/99).

November 15, 1999

As part of the $10 billion class action lawsuit filed by former workers, the bodies of 3 dead workers from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion plant will be exhumed and tested for plutonium and neptunium (Raad Cawthon, Philadelphia Enquirer, 11/15/99).

November 17, 1999

The Clinton administration sends Congress a bill to compensate nuclear weapons workers who became ill because of exposure to beryllium. The bill apparently also includes provision for compensation of up to $100,000 each for Paducah workers who develop cancer because of exposure to plutonium and other radioactive materials (Rebecca Sinderbrand, Associated Press, 11/17/99 and Joe Stephens and Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 11/18/99). The legislation cannot be acted upon until Congress goes into session after Christmas.

November 23, 1999

Attempts to remove fissile materials stored in DOE Material Storage Areas (DMSA) may delay efforts to complete seismic modifications. In response to investigations of the Paducah plant, 11 high priority DMSA’s have been identified and five of those will likely impact seismic upgrades (http://www.nuke-energy.com/, 11/23/99).



After the discovery of plutonium contamination at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, KY, DOE officials initially denied that workers at the Oak Ridge Plant handled contaminated uranium. However, on August 10, only a few days after the discovery at Paducah, the federal government admitted that 5,600 tons of irradiated uranium contaminated with plutonium, technetium-99, neptunium, and americium were transported to the Oak Ridge facility (Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel, 8/10/99). DOE spokesperson Steven Wyatt, however, claimed that much of the plutonium would have been removed in the fluorinating process in Paducah before reaching Oak Ridge. DOE later estimated that a much larger amount of irradiated uranium (17,800 tons) was sent to Oak Ridge for conversion to uranium hexafluoride and acknowledged that 5,800 tons was enriched into bomb and reactor fuel on site (Associated Press, 10/1/99). This material was estimated to contain 230 pounds of technetium-99, 60 grams of plutonium, and 3,500 grams of neptunium. According to Bob Dyer, a former employee at the Oak Ridge plant, the greatest potential for exposure to these highly radioactive elements was likely at the feed plant where the cake uranium is made into uranium hexafluoride. However, other workers and the Oak Ridge Health Agreement Steering Panel have confirmed regular leaks in the processing system that released radioactive material into other areas of the plant.

United States Senator Fred Thompson, who is afraid that the recent spotlight on Paducah may be leaving Portsmouth and Oak Ridge out in the cold, announced that hearings to investigate worker illnesses at the Oak Ridge and Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plants will be held before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs starting in December (Laura Frank and Susan Thomas, The Tennessean, 10/29/99). Dr. Richard C. Bird, Jr. of the JSI Center for Environmental Health Studies in Boston says he has already found quite a few workers at the Oak Ridge plant "who do, in fact, have illnesses that we're going to conclude is related to the site" including nerve damage, memory loss, and lung damage (Laura Frank, The Tennessean, 9/5/99). He is one of three physicians hired by Lockheed Martin and DOE to look into the health of workers at K-25. Health screenings conducted by Queens College also found lung problems associated with beryllium and asbestos, bladder cancer, and hearing loss (Larisa Brass, Oak Ridger, 9/9/99). Interestingly, the Tennessean in 1998 had interviewed 400 ill workers and residents around 13 major weapons sites from New York to California and discovered ailments similar to those discovered at Oak Ridge including memory loss, numbness, dizziness, and breathing difficulties.



Initially, government officials denied that workers at the Piketon plant handled any of the contaminated uranium that was shipped to Paducah. Later reports by DOE officials revealed that Piketon workers handled the contaminated uranium but they insisted the irradiated uranium at Portsmouth contained significantly lower levels of plutonium than the uranium at Paducah because initial processing and enrichment were carried out in Paducah. Under pressure from non-governmental organizations and the press who were able to point to documents, DOE later admitted that the Piketon plant also received irradiated uranium directly from reprocessing plants (Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, 9/15/99). Initial estimates showed Piketon receiving 570 tons of uranium contaminated with plutonium, but that estimate was later increased to 1,321 tons (Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, 9/30/99). DOE officials estimate that this material contained one ounce of plutonium and 190 pounds of technetium-99 (Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, 9/30/99). The contamination has moved outside the plant according to a 1998 EPA report that showed plutonium contamination in Little Beaver Creek (Mark Richard, Pike County News Watchman, 8/29/99). Soil in a ditch that drains into Little Beaver Creek also is contaminated with plutonium, neptunium, and americium (Bob Dreitzer, Columbus Dispatch, 8/13/99).

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced October 28 that an investigation of current practices at the Portsmouth plant has found them to be safe (Reuters, 10/28/99).

On October 30, more than 150 people packed a conference room at the Comfort Inn in Piketon to hear testimony of 40 current and former employees of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant regarding their health problems. Testimony was given to a panel that included U.S. Representative Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, and republican U.S. Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich (Frank Hitchey, Columbus Dispatch, 10/31/99). David Michaels, assistant Energy secretary for the environment, safety, and health said, "If people develop a cancer that has the plausibility of being work-related, the burden of proof shifts away from the worker.”

Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, is angry over the omission of Piketon workers from the legislation submitted to Congress by the administration November 17. He introduced his own bill that would expand the proposed compensation package to cover workers at the Ohio gaseous diffusion plant (Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, 11/18/99).

November 30 the US DOE’s independent oversight team began an investigation of environment, safety and health activities at the Portsmouth plant. The team is to make several visits to Portsmouth over the following few months. A final report is expected to be issued in April 2000 (DOE, Press release, 11/29/99).



The proposed $7 million increase in federal funding for expanded health checks of workers at the Paducah, Portsmouth and Oak Ridge uranium enrichment plants was removed from the federal budget in last minute maneuvering by Congress. In the final budget, Congress directed DOE to “reprogram” existing funds to pay for the expanded screenings. Nearly 6,000 former and current plant workers would have been given checkups, including early detection tests for lung cancer, but the $1 million allocated by Congress will only cover 1,200 workers. About 3,800 current workers and 15,000 former workers from the Paducah and Piketon plants are eligible for the program. Removal of the $7 million by House GOP members may have been in response to DOE resistance toward increased congressional oversight. Representative Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, said “My impression is it’s kind of like a standoff” and “It’s a damn shame” (Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, 12/8/99).



Separation of Isotopes of Uranium by Laser Excitation (SILEX)

On September 10, Department of Energy secretary Bill Richardson signed the U.S.-Australia agreement to share information regarding the Silex Limited enrichment process. On October 25, President Clinton approved the "Agreement for Cooperation between the United States of America and Australia concerning technology for the Separation of Isotopes of Uranium by Laser Excitation. Silex is being developed by Silex Systems, Ltd. of Australia. USEC paid Silex systems $7.5 million “for the exclusive right to evaluate the commercial viability of the technology,” and will pay additional sums if it continues to study and decides to adopt the process. Silex, like gaseous diffusion technology, enriches uranium in the form of uranium hexafluoride.

Toxic Releases Associated with Oak Ridge Dismantlement?

When the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion plant was shut down in 1988 the power was turned off and the uranium hexafluoride was simply allowed to condense in place. Consequently, dismantlement of the plant in sections exposed uranium hexafluoride to the air and released HF and fluorine into the atmosphere. DOE attempted to dismantle the plant slowly in an effort to release fluorine gas in small increments, but, researcher Jim Phelps charges, the releases contributed to the killing of thousands of acres of pine trees and burned the skin and lungs of many folks in the area (Jim Phelps, News Alert, 10/1/99).

Documents reveal why Piketon was chosen for the Gaseous Diffusion plant

Documents show that Southern Ohio was chosen as the construction site for the DOE Gaseous Diffusion plant due to an isolated location where struggling unions would not demand high wages and where residents were not likely to fight construction of a potentially hazardous facility. DOE tried to build the facility in Louisville or Cincinnati, but Louisville civic and business groups protested and Cincinnati unions demanded too much money (Columbus Dispatch, 10/29).

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) Reaction to Health Care and Compensation for Paducah Workers

Full Text of Announcement Released Tuesday, November 23, 1999

The Clinton Administration's reaction to reports of widespread human exposure to radioactive contamination at Paducah and other Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear facilities, has been based on "ad hoc band-aids," not a "comprehensive health action plan", according to a network of activists from communities downwind and downstream from those sites.

In a letter to President Clinton, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) wrote, "Widespread exposure of site workers and neighbors is pandemic throughout the nation's DOE nuclear weapons complex. The response of your administration in addressing this public health and environmental crisis thus far has been grossly inadequate and disappointing. A few public meetings, more inconclusive studies, and the recent proposed legislation adding an appallingly deficient compensation program isolated to Paducah workers is merely lip-service. To date, little has been done that truly addresses the widespread human suffering of nuclear weapons site workers and neighbors."

ANA urged the Clinton Administration to adopt "concrete measures that can be consistently and comprehensively applied to health problems throughout DOE's weapons complex." A "Health Action Plan" appended to the letter called for a comprehensive new policy based on openness, treatment, and compensation, including: 1) an immediate presidential order forbidding DOE employees and contractors from destroying any records that may have relevance to health and safety issues; 2) rescinding DOE's declassification moratorium to allow full access to data involving radioactive or toxic releases and exposures; 3) making proposed DOE safety rules permanent and enforceable; 4) health screening, monitoring and treatment for workers and affected communities off-site; 5) giving potentially exposed individuals a "reasonable benefit of doubt" in providing health care and compensation; and 6) protective and preventative measures to reduce future risks.

The ANA letter concluded, "We remind you that the United States has a moral obligation to address the very grave health concerns of the workers and communities at the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and related facilities who have made great sacrifices and taken on many burdens and risks throughout the past half century of nuclear weapons development, production, and testing." The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is a national network of more than 30 local, regional and national organizations representing the concerns of communities living in the shadows of U.S. nuclear weapons complex sites and radioactive waste dumps.

A copy of the letter to Pres. Clinton and "Health Action Plan" are available on request from Bob Schaeffer at (941) 395-6773.



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