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COMPENSATION FOR NUCLEAR WORKERS

by Constance Harness

A recent Associated Press article reports that last spring the Energy Department reversed 50 years of Federal policy by declaring that workers injured or killed by radiation exposure at weapons plants should be compensated. Legislation is currently being sought to compensate nuclear workers at such facilities as the Savannah River Site.US Representative, Lindsey Graham, R-SC, is reported as saying: "Several of us who have sites in our district, we donít want to take no for an answer."

Negotiations on the Defense Authorization Act, which contains spending for the workers, came to a standstill recently in House and Senate budget negotiations. David Michaels, an assistant secretary for the Department of Energy, reports that the Senate plan allows for $938 million which would help 4000 to 6000 workers with radiation-induced cancers and illnesses caused by beryllium and other hazardous materials to get benefits during five years. This would either pay lost wages and medical benefits or allow workers to take a one-time payment of $200,000. The House plan, while supporting the compensation, will not fund it until more studies have been done. Michaels stated that further studies are not needed; "We know more about the health of these workers and what their needs are than any other group of workers in the country."