April 2000

Stricken nuclear workers to receive benefits

WASHINGTON, DC, April 13, 2000 (ENS)

[Posted 25/04/2000]

The US Government will compensate thousands of workers of the nuclear weapons complex.

Thousands of workers with illnesses resulting from work in the nuclear weapons industry will be compensated, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced today. "For decades, government ignored mounting evidence that workers who were contributing to our nation's defense were themselves being put at risk," said Vice President Al Gore. "While we cannot undo their suffering, today this administration begins the process of healing by admitting the government's mistakes, designing a process for compensating these workers for their suffering and by becoming an advocate for Department of Energy workers throughout the nuclear weapons complex."

The proposal, if approved by Congress, would compensate more than 3,000 workers. The legislation would give a lump sum or a package of benefits including lost wages, medical expenses and job retraining. Covered will be workers with pulmonary diseases caused from breathing particles of beryllium, workers with cancers caused by workplace radiation exposure and specific groups of workers at the department's Paducah, Kentucky; Portsmouth, Ohio; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee sites. The announcement is the culmination of a series of actions by the administration over the past 10 months to compensate people who developed illnesses from exposure to dangerous chemicals and radiation while building America's nuclear defense. "We are moving forward to do the right thing by these workers," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "The men and women who served our nation in the nuclear weapons industries of World War II and the Cold War labored under difficult and dangerous conditions with some of the most hazardous materials known to mankind. This is a fair and reasonable program. It will compensate workers and get them the help they have long deserved."

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