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Workers at nuclear plant sickened

A nuclear plant in Piketon, Ohio, which began production in 1954 and was in service throughout the Cold War, is shutting its doors. The plant produced weapons-grade uranium for the U.S. military. Former plant workers allege that they were sickened by radiation exposure.

Several workers have developed prostate cancer and beryllium disease. Eight of 14 employees involved in the transportation of radioactive materials developed an unusually aggressive form of prostate cancer at relatively early ages (younger than 60). According to the chief scientist at the plant from 1990 to 2000, this kind of prostate cancer is more malignant than common forms of prostate cancer. The problem, according to him, is that the Department of Energy only tests for uranium-235 (weapons-grade) exposure, not uranium-234, a different isotope. According to this scientist, it is exposure to this particular isotope that is responsible for the unusual cancer rates.

Several workers at the Piketon Plant have had their workers compensation claim denied by the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. The EEOICP was created in 2001 to compensate federal workers and contractors who were sickened while working at DOE plants. It was projected that it would help around 3,000 people a year at an annual cost of $120 million. However, the actual cost is around $12 billion a year, and it assists 50,000 workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a decade long study and found no causal link between health problems and exposure at the Piketon Plant. Regardless, these workers say they are continuing their claims and lawsuits against the government.

As you can see, filing a claim with the appropriate agency is not necessarily enough to get your compensation. If you were sickened working at one of these plants, then you may want to speak to an attorney to file your paperwork. Having an attorney in your corner can help assure that your claim is not unfairly denied.

Source: Al Jazeera America, "The cancer cluster of Piketon, Ohio," Kevin Williams, Feb. 25, 2016

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