Ailing nuclear workers: Relying on Jesus and morphine via The Charlotte Observer


After working 17 years at the Savannah River nuclear weapons plant, just across the Georgia state line in South Carolina, Smitty found out on Sept. 11, 2008, 10 years after he retired, that he had multiple myeloma, a cancer.

Just like 54,005 other workers who have tried to get help from the federal government after getting sick at a nuclear weapons plant, Smitty never got a penny.

At 62, he relied instead on Jesus and morphine.

That meant up to two 30 milligram tablets of morphine sulfate every four to six hours, as needed, and prayers all day long, including the reading of at least one chapter in the Bible each day.

He napped a lot, too.


‘Delay, deny, until you die’

Shortly after taking over as head of the U.S. Department of Energy in 1998, Bill Richardson had an emotional meeting with a contingent of people from the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The group included widows who “would pour their hearts out,” complaining that they could not get compensation for their deceased husbands because they could not locate employment records.


Since retiring from the plant in 2002, Hoppe has suffered from prostate cancer and three episodes of skin cancer – all of which he blames on the long list of radioactive and toxic materials he unwittingly handled without proper safety precautions at the plant.

Shortly after he retired, his son, Bill Jr., died from an enlarged heart, a condition the elder Hoppe blamed on his exposure to beryllium dust.

“We’d bring it home in our shirt pockets. I get home, he’d jump all over me, wanted to play and all that, and that dust would get all in him,” Hoppe said. “We didn’t know it was hazardous.”

In September, Hoppe, who lives in Granite City, Ill., finally got $150,000 in compensation, as well as a guarantee of $250,000 in medical benefits.

This entry was posted in *English and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply