- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In
an about-face, U.S. officials confirmed on Saturday that nuclear weapons
workers exposed to radiation and chemicals experienced higher-than-expected
- The admission was contained in a draft report by the
Energy Department and the White House. It comes after the U.S. government
spent years minimizing the dangers of exposure to radiation and defending
itself against charges that nuclear bomb plants had sickened workers.
- The findings, first reported by The New York Times and
confirmed by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, could lead to negotiations
over a package to compensate sick workers and their families.
- Richardson, attending an economic forum in Davos, Switzerland,
said on Saturday, ``We should take care of our workers'' if a final report
due out in March confirms a linkage between exposure to radiation and health
- The draft report says workers exposed to radiation and
chemicals at 14 U.S. nuclear weapons plants had elevated rates of 22 categories
of cancer ranging from leukemia to lung cancer, according to the Times.
- A nuclear weapons expert cited by the paper said hundreds
of people may have been sickened since nuclear weapons production began
during the Second World War. That number could rise to the thousands if
radiation-linked diseases other than cancer were counted.
- The Times said compensation for the group could add up
to tens of millions of dollars.
- President Clinton ordered the report last year after
the Energy Department said some nuclear plant workers who had helped supply
beryllium -- a toxic metal -- to the government had been stricken with
beryllium disease, an untreatable lung condition.
- The facilities listed in the report included nuclear
weapons operations at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Savannah River in South Carolina;
Hanford in eastern Washington state; Rocky Flats near Denver; Fernald Feed
Materials Center near Cincinnati, Ohio; the Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory in California; and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New
- The report did not list a federally owned plant in Kentucky
where thousands of workers allegedly were exposed to plutonium over more
than two decades.
- In August last year, Richardson called for an investigation
after The Washington Post said uranium workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion
Plant inhaled plutonium-laced dust brought into the plant for 23 years
until as recently as 1976.