Reading Room

Atomic Workers, Illness and the Compensation Act

by Loulena Miles and Marylia Kelley
Insert in Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Since our first atomic tests, hundreds of facilities across the United States assisted in developing and maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The hidden cost of constant preparation for war is many thousands of sick workers from facilities across the country. The Department of Energy (DOE) has recently come forward and admitted that these workers have been lied to about their exposures and deserve compensation.

The groundbreaking legislation for sick DOE workers, formally called the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, is taking its first steps. Workers and subcontract workers who were employed at DOE and certain other sites can now begin the process of submitting applications for compensation.

The Department of Labor (DOL) is in charge of processing claims and implementing the compensation program. The DOE and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also have specific responsibilities for the program. As the regulations are currently written, there are three basic claim categories: Cancer, Beryllium Disease and Silicosis.

Limitations exist. For cancer, only exposures to radiation qualify for compensation. If a worker has been exposed on the job to toxic chemicals, including those known to cause cancer, he or she is not eligible for compensation. Moreover, if a worker is exposed to radiation but develops any illness other than cancer, he or she is not eligible. The two exceptions are workers who had beryllium exposures that led to beryllium sensitivity or chronic beryllium disease and workers who were present for 250 days or more during mining operations for nuclear tests in Nevada or Alaska and who developed silicosis as a result.

On June 19th, we attended a DOL/DOE public meeting on the application process at the Oakland Marriott. Here's some of what we've learned so far:

  • Applications for benefits can be filed at any time. Call the Tri-Valley CAREs office at 1-925-443-7148 to get an application, or call the Department of Labor's toll free hotline at 1-866-888-3322.

  • Workers who have cancers, beryllium disease, or silicosis resulting from on the job exposures, and who meet other eligibility requirements, will receive a lump sum payment of $150,000 and some medical expenses associated with their illness. Survivors may also be eligible for benefits in certain cases.

  • The requirements have been written so that exposures may be presumed for special cohorts of workers, e.g., workers in the uranium enrichment plants prior to 1992.

  • Other workers, including those at Livermore Lab, will need to provide evidence of their exposures, a potentially difficult to impossible task because radiation badges do not register many types of exposure and DOE workplace records are often deficient or missing altogether. For many of these workers, we fear the road to compensation is likely to be long and difficult.

  • HHS will develop "dose reconstruction" charts, and will use them to determine if a worker's radiation exposure led to his or her cancer. As noted above, the sick worker may be expected to pull together a significant amount of information about his or her medical records, employment and exposure history (years employed, job title, major accidents in which the worker was involved, radiation badges, etc.). Moreover, we note that dose reconstruction is controversial at best within the scientific community, and that many ill workers could face substantial bureaucratic and statistical obstacles here.

  • For illnesses other than beryllium disease, sick workers must obtain the proper diagnosis on their own to qualify for compensation. (Tri-Valley CAREs has more information about which diagnostic tests are necessary for eligibility.) The information provided by the workers may have to be verified by searching for documents, which could be a long process. Once the information is assembled, it will be evaluated to determine eligibility. It is notable that this process is not subject to independent review.

We advocate that the compensation program be flexible in order to meet the needs of sick workers. The burden of proof cannot fall too heavily on the ill worker. Otherwise, many who deserve compensation will be turned away.

We also believe the compensation program should be expanded to better cover the range of illnesses resulting from employee exposures.

In numerous communities around DOE and other atomic weapons facilities, members of the public, including children, have suffered exposures to radiation and toxic chemicals equal to those of the workers. Contamination did not stop at the fence line. The program should include provisions for community compensation as well.

Further, the program must become more visible at the DOE sites and in surrounding communities. We were shocked to learn that there are no DOL resource centers planned in California to help workers and survivors with their claims. The nearest one appears to be in Washington State.

If you are a sick DOE worker or know someone who is, please feel free to call our office with any questions or experiences you want to share. Tri-Valley CAREs is tracking the government's performance and will be formally commenting on the Act's provisions and implementation.


Return to Full-Scale Nuclear Testing?

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Bush Administration has asked the weapons labs to investigate how the nation could resume full-scale nuclear testing more quickly than Congress now allows. The Nuclear Testing Moratorium Act, passed in 1992, and subsequent legislation require that the U.S. be able to conduct a nuclear test within three years. The study is expected to examine how that can be cut to mere months. Livermore Lab director Bruce Tarter told reporters that doing the analysis is "a non-provocative activity."

So is selling matches, but not to a pyromaniac.

It's the context that counts. The budget for U.S. nuclear weapons research and development has risen to a precipitous new high, with more $6 billion now proposed for next year. The National Ignition Facility and other exotic nuclear weapons design machines are under construction, and plans are to complete them whether or not the nation resumes full-scale underground tests.

The Pentagon, with encouragement from the weapons labs, is examining the utility of developing new, earth-penetrating mini-nukes in order to better target the third world. The lab directors, most notably Sandia's Paul Robinson, are talking more and more openly of the day when they will once again conduct tests in Nevada. President Bush has directed John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, to look into ways to scuttle the as-yet-unratified Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, signed by the U.S. in 1996. And the list goes on.

These are not unrelated facts. The U.S. has spent the nine years since its last full-scale test in Nevada designing new nuclear bombs and "modifying" existing ones with the so-called "Stockpile Stewardship" program - and is now signaling it may soon break out of any constraints that this "alternative" testing regime imposes on the speedy development of wholly-new nuclear weapons.

The world is watching. One hundred and sixty-one countries have signed the CTBT -- and seventy-seven have ratified it, including France, Britain and Russia. Recently, the European Union rebuked Bush for his opposition to the test ban, and this September the United Nations will host a conference on speeding the treaty's global entry into force. China is observing a test moratorium and has signed but not ratified the CTBT.

Actions have consequences. If the U.S. increases its readiness to test its nukes, will other nation's follow suit? What will be the reaction of countries that ratified the CTBT? And, how about India, whose short test series in 1998 could not have provided all of the nuclear data desired by the weaponeers? What then of Pakistan? Will China increase activity at its test site at Lop Nor? What about the "threshold" nuclear states that have forgone weapons testing, based at least partly on assurances given by the U.S. that it has stopped testing and will take seriously its disarmament obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

In short, if the U.S. returns to full-scale underground testing, the nonproliferation regime will almost certainly break apart. The Stockpile Stewardship program, looming abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and other U.S. actions have already embrittled the nonproliferation regime. Full-scale nuclear testing would decimate it.

Fortunately for the U.S. and the world, Congress is a road block to any immediate plans the Bush Administration may have to resume testing. The House Appropriations Committee report for fiscal year 2002 specifically states that U.S. nuclear testing readiness cannot be changed until three conditions are met: (1) Secretary Rumsfeld completes his review of U.S. nuclear posture, (2) the President formally requests the modification, and (3) Congress approves it.

The final word, however, must come from the people. We must not allow it.


U.S. Mayors Say No Nukes

adapted from the Global Security Institute's press advisory
for Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As President Bush stepped to the podium to address the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Detroit on June 25, a statement from mayors of major U.S. cities was released, calling on him to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons "with all deliberate speed," and "to declare your firm commitment to the task of eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the earth."

Just minutes before the President's arrival, the plenary meeting of the Mayors' Conference reaffirmed from the floor its policy in favor of eliminating nuclear weapons.

Mayors are concerned that two of the most plausible nuclear threats against the U.S., a terrorist attack or an accidental launch of Russian nuclear missiles, would target U.S. cities.

Russian command and control systems have deteriorated and the danger of an accidental launch is growing. Meanwhile, nuclear states' continued production of fissile material increases the likelihood of terrorist groups obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The mayors believe that the global elimination of nuclear weapons is the answer to the nuclear threat to U.S. cities. "Many cities represented by mayors at the U. S. Conference are specifically targeted by nuclear weapons," said Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. "[T]he catastrophic consequences of even one nuclear mishap are unacceptable and unnecessary."

"We believe it is our responsibility to speak out," says the mayors' statement, "for if nuclear weapons are ever again used, it is virtually certain that one or more of our cities will be the target and the people we represent will be the victims."

Northern California Mayors who signed the statement include Oakland's Jerry Brown and former Mayor Elihu Harris, San Francisco's Willie Brown, San Jose's Ron Gonzales and former Mayor Susan Hammer, Santa Cruz's Keith Sugar, and Sacramento's Jimmie Yee and former Mayor Joe Serna, Jr.

Tyler Stevenson of the Global Security Institute said, "We have a fundamental choice... We can choose to maintain and modernize our arsenals, endlessly managing the dangers of nuclear deterrence, which perpetuates the targeting of our own cities. Or we can choose to get rid of the weapons, taking U.S. cities and their residents out of nuclear harm's way."

-- The mayors' statement was circulated by the Global Security Institute and its founder, the late CA Senator Alan Cranston, who died on Dec. 31, 2000. See www.gsinstitute.org for the complete text.


Up From the Ashes and Dangerous Again

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In the 1980s we called Ronald Reagan's plan to militarize space, "Star Wars." We marched in opposition, discussed its negative impact on world peace, exposed its technical problems and, ultimately, stopped the program - relegating it to the dust bin of history. Or so we hoped.

We were aware that programmatic embers remained, and we kept tabs on them. We knew, for example, that some of the space-based weapons received research funding well into the 90s, and that new concepts were added to the drawing board by the Energy and Defense Department labs.

And now it's back, all of it; full force and rapidly being blown into wildfire proportions with a proposed 57% budget increase for next year - to $8.3 billion.

The program carries a new, benign-sounding name, of course. It's called the "layered approach" to missile defense.

Layered means interceptor rockets fired from missile silos in Alaska and ships at sea. It means high altitude "space bombers" raining down munitions. Layered is orbiting platforms bristling with high-tech gadgetry. It's arming 747s with killer lasers. Layered includes a revival of "Brilliant Pebbles" with up to four thousand earth-orbiting interceptors, according to a recent story in the New York Times. Layered missile defense means shooting at missiles during their initial phase and, if we miss, to keep on shooting them. It means arming the heavens.

In July, Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz testified to Congress that the Pentagon is moving forward with planned missile defense tests that will violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty "in months, not years." Further, he said the Bush Administration was prepared to unilaterally abrogate the Treaty if the Russians don't agree to change it.

Bush proposes to clear ground at Fort Greely, Alaska as early as this month in order to construct missile silos. The facility would be ready to go into operation within three years as an "emergency" missile defense site, say officials.

Three Congressmen, Ike Skelton, John Spratt and Norman Dicks, responded with a letter to the Defense Dept. demanding those plans be canceled because they appear to be on a "collision course" with the ABM Treaty. The Pentagon then promised Congress a report on whether the tree clearing and other early construction activities will violate the Treaty.

Meanwhile, Democrats in both the House and Senate are reportedly discussing whether to exercise the power of the purse strings and withhold part of the program's $8.3 billion budget request.

More on Missile Defense: The Beacon

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On July 14, a missile, fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, launched its 120-pound "kill vehicle" and decimated a dummy warhead originating from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Pentagon declared the test a success.

This made 2 hits out of 4 attempts in the past two years. The first such test, in Oct. 1999, was dubbed a "success," although even its supporters admitted things had been simplified to give it a chance. The next two tests ended in failure.

This fourth test was touted as proof missile defense could work. Then, interesting truths began to leak out.

First we learned that a prototype radar had failed. We didn't tell anyone, said the Pentagon, because it "was not a major concern." Said Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, "The software they installed just couldn't keep up with the information..."

Then, Defense Week reported that an electronic beacon had been used in the test to tell the "kill vehicle" where to look for the warhead. That's right -- a signal had transmitted, "Hit me. Yo, I'm over here."

The next test is tentatively scheduled for Oct. It will also employ a "hit me" beacon, admitted Rear Admiral Craig Quigley.


4 Fresh Initiatives From Washington, DC

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2001 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

PEACE ON EARTH: On July 11, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced legislation to create a cabinet level agency dedicated to peacemaking and the study of conditions that are conducive to peace. "The time for peace is now," Rep. Kucinich said. "Peace is not only the absence of violence, but the presence of a higher evolution of human awareness with respect, trust and integrity toward humankind."

The legislation to create the Department of Peace highlights individual, group and national responsibilities for holding peace as an organizing principle. The Department of Peace will focus on nonmilitary, peaceful conflict resolution, prevent violence and promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights. "The challenges inherent in creating a Department of Peace are massive," explained Kucinich. "But the alternatives are worse."

AND IN SPACE: Congressman Kucinich also announced his intention to introduce legislation to ban the weaponization of space. "We must work toward the elimination of all nuclear weapons, and an end to policies which cause this country to move toward the weaponization of space," he said.

Kucinich called claims by weapons advocates that keeping space for peace puts our national security and commercial interests at risk "fear tactics backed by greed." Kucinich vowed his bill will call for "an immediate and permanent termination of research, testing, manufacturing, production and deployment of all space-based weapons systems and components by any person, agency or contractor of the U.S. government." He plans to introduce the Space Preservation Act of 2001 this Fall. Stay tuned.

WITH INTERIM THREAT REDUCTION: On June 27, our own Congressional Representative, Ellen Tauscher, introduced legislation aimed at: (1) preventing the accidental launch of nuclear weapons by establishing a policy to reduce their hair-trigger alert status; (2) stabilizing nuclear materials in Russia, and (3) better funding certain nonproliferation measures in the U.S. and Russia. Under the proposed bill, U.S. funding for nonproliferation programs would reach $2 billion in 2002. The President's budget calls for a funding cut for nonproliferation programs.

The Tauscher bill, called the Nuclear Threat Reduction Act, also seeks to repeal the existing prohibition on reducing the number of U.S. warheads to below the START I mark set a decade ago. The bill itself does not change, or set any specific limits on, the number of warheads that would remain in the U.S. arsenal. Tauscher was joined by Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) in introducing the legislation in the House. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

AND MORE CLEANUP FUNDING: Meanwhile, California's Senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, have heeded the public's call to ensure adequate cleanup funding in 2002 for heavily-contaminated soil and groundwater at Livermore Lab's main site and site 300. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which was passed in July, sets aside an additional $14 million for Livermore Lab. Of that, $11 million goes directly to environmental cleanup with $3 million to other, related nuclear waste programs. The Senate bill makes up the 48% shortfall in the President's budget for cleanup activities at Livermore. However, because the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill failed to name Livermore Lab as a recipient for additional cleanup funding, the Lab's cleanup budget has to go to the House-Senate conference committee, probably in early Fall. Then, if the conference committee blesses the increase, full funding for Livermore Lab cleanup will go on to the President's desk for signature as part of the overall Congressional budget bill. Keep your fingers crossed.


Calendar Section -- Citizen's Alerts

Monday, August 6
7 AM - Hiroshima Commemoration
7 PM - Benefit with Jesse Colin Young
(925) 443-7148 for details

Commemorate the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Renew your commitment to peace and a healthy environment. In the morning, at 7 AM, we will gather at Livermore Lab (corner of East Ave. and Vasco Rd.) for a rally, followed by a procession to the gates and a nonviolent direct action by those who choose to risk arrest. At 7 PM, Jesse Colin Young & sons will perform at "downtown" in Berkeley. Proceeds benefit Tri-Valley CAREs and Citizen Alert. (See enclosed flier for more information.)

Tuesday, August 7
Public Hearing on the release of radioactively-contaminated metals
2 PM and 8 PM sessions, Holiday Inn near the Oakland Airport
500 Hegenberger Rd.
(925) 443-7148 for details

At this time, the Dept. of Energy is conducting an environmental review on the potential release and recycling of radioactively-contaminated metals. At this juncture, DOE has fired the contractor (SAIC) hired to do the review, provided too few background documents to the public and too little advance notice of the public hearings. Numerous national and local organizations have requested that DOE postpone the hearings. Nonetheless, DOE has announced the Oakland hearing for Aug. 7. Call our office for "talking points" or look for our table there.

Saturday, August 11
Tri-Valley CAREs' strategic planning
10 AM - 4 PM, Holy Redeemer Center
8945 Golf Links Rd., in the Oakland hills
(925) 443-7148 RSVP required.

This annual planning retreat is open to our members, board, staff and volunteers. Be visionary. Be strategic. Be there. RSVP today.

Thursday, August 16
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:15 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

It's our monthly meeting, and you are invited. Get the latest information on disarmament and environmental initiatives. Learn what's going on at Livermore Lab in your backyard. Preview the latest installment in our campaign to dissuade scientists and engineers from working on NIF and other new nuclear weapons projects. Enjoy good company, air conditioning and snacks!

Monday, August 20
"The Unveiling"
Time - to be arranged
(925) 443-7148 for details

As we go to press, details are being worked out for the debut of an innovative, exciting "public art installation" by Tri-Valley CAREs. We will have cake, coffee and an "unveiling" on Aug. 20, about mid-morning. Call us after Aug. 13 for more information.

Thursday, September 6
"Promoting Peace in the 21st Century"
Tri-Valley CAREs' study group
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First Street, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Where do things stand today? How can we create positive change in the world? In our communities? Marylia Kelley will offer an assessment of the challenges and opportunities for disarmament in the "Dubya" administration-and beyond. Join this crucial, informative discussion. Tri-Valley CAREs offers "study groups" on peace and our environment every other month.

Thursday, September 13
Straight Answers for Sick Workers
Noon, Livermore Lab's Visitors Center Auditorium,
or 7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us for an informal seminar (day or evening session) to talk about the compensation program for atomic weapons workers, including Livermore Lab employees, who have suffered exposures to radiation or toxics and have become ill. Learn what is covered and what is not. Discuss how to expand the program in the future. (See the enclosed flier for details.)

October 6 and 7
Nuclear Free Great Basin Gathering
Skull Valley Goshute Reservation
(801) 359-2614 for details

Ohngo Guadadeh Devia Awareness invites you to support their struggle to prevent nuclear waste dumping on the Goshute Reservation and other traditional Native American lands. Tri-Valley CAREs is a participating organization in the gathering. Call us if you can provide carpool space from the Bay Area.

Saturday, October 13
International day to speak out against the weaponization of space
1 PM, Milton Meyers Recreation Center
195 Kiska Rd., Bayview Hunters Point, SF
(415) 565-0201 or (925) 443-7148

Come to a festival of art, music and education on Oct. 13 from 1 - 5 PM. Together, we will find joyful ways to overcome the violent effects of past nuclear weapons work at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, and to resist the continuing militarization of our SF Bay Area and the nation.

TOUR LIVERMORE LAB'S SITE 300: Tri-Valley CAREs is sponsoring a tour of Livermore Lab's high explosives test site on Wed., Aug. 15, from 9 AM to 1 PM. We will visit firing tables and pits 3 & 5, where the radioactive tritium plume is located underground. We will see some of the techniques used by the Lab to clean up contamination. If you want to attend the tour, call us at the office. We will need your driver's license number and other information by Aug. 8. This is required by the Lab. Join us for an interesting, informative day. Peter Strauss, Tri-Valley CAREs' technical advisor on toxic waste and cleanup will be along to answer questions.

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