Ex-Nuclear Plant Workers Not Always Receiving Aid For Illness

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act provides aid for tens of thousands of sick workers and ex-workers who can link their illnesses to their employment at any one of the country’s 325 nuclear sites. In many cases, aid goes to the survivors of these people after their death. The government has only officially linked radiation or toxins to the deaths of 15,809 workers. That is less than half of those whose families claim should qualify for aid.

Record keeping is somewhat haphazard, and the number of people who have died as a result of illness due to their work in nuclear plants is unknown. McClatchy journalists spent a year studying the information that is available. They found:

  1. The death toll among workers at nuclear plants is more than four times the number of American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. At the start of the program, the government expected to only provide aid to about 3,000 people. To date, more than 53,000 workers have been served.
  3. Fewer than half of the people that have applied for aid have gotten it.
  4. Despite knowing that this type of work can lead to health problems, the government continues to try to slash insurance and retirement benefits for nuclear plant workers.
  5. Stronger safety standards have been put in place, but they have not stopped daily radiation exposure or accidents.

McClatchy journalists interviewed ex-workers as part of their research. Many report having been diagnosed with cancer and other health issues related to poisoning. While some have received aid, others have not. For some, proving what they know, that their work caused their illness, is too difficult to prove.

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