The federal government acknowledged for the first time this year nuclear radiation work done by workers at Idaho National Laboratory probably caused or contributed to the deaths of 396 workers.
Though the U.S. federal government compensated the families of nearly 480 INL workers who died, official say that only 396 workers proved to the government’s satisfaction that nuclear radiation exposure at INL was 50 percent or more responsible for their deaths. So far, 15,809 of the nuclear worker deaths nationwide fit that test.
Idaho National Laboratory employees have been finding it difficult to prove eligibility. In fact, nearly two of every three claims are denied. When an INL worker has a disease that qualifies, they also have to prove they had been exposed to high levels of nuclear radiation or hazards.
Fortunately, because Jim Delmore brought the 1972 nuclear radiation incident and the lack of internal monitoring to the attention of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in his 2013 claim, many former employees may be eligible for compensation without having to prove anything — except that they have a qualifying disease.
Jim Delmore simply responded about the eligibility of his co-workers.
“I think I’ve opened the door for others.”
[…]Tami Thatcher, an engineer who conducted risk assessments at the Advanced Test Reactor at INL, now works for the Environmental Defense Institute, an Idaho group that has been fighting to make INL nuclear radiation releases more transparent.
Tami points out her disagreement on whether INL should be a separate group where workers don’t have the burden to prove their illness was caused by their job.
“There are such a variety of hazards anyone working out there would have faced.”
According to Thatcher, drinking water was contaminated with radioactive tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, which was pumped directly into the groundwater. Levels were high – as much as five times the maximum federal acceptable contamination level in the 1960s. These elevated levels violated the standard when the Environmental Protection Agency and the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality required monitoring in 1987, according to Thatcher.
Thatcher added that an open-air reactor test in 1965 — that had not been made public — likely caused high doses for workers across the site.
Stephanie Stevens, a spokesperson for the National Institute, said it “has not yet reached a conclusion about whether a class should be recommended for certain other areas of INL.”