Volunteer activists credited with getting $60M for former nuclear workers via TRIB live

The volunteer efforts of a Hyde Park environmental activist and a retired Washington Township engineer helped about 300 former nuclear workers in the region collect $60 million from the federal government for cancers likely caused by their jobs.

A federal entitlement program that was enacted in 2000, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program pays $150,000 tax-free, plus medical benefits, to workers who became ill, because of their work for the government or contractors for nuclear weapons and Cold War-related work. The illnesses covered include diagnoses of one of 22 types of cancers.

But that program fell short in its early years for workers from the former Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) because many of the workers or their families couldn’t find the required medical records and the company couldn’t come up with the required documentation.


Zero worker claims initially approved

In September 2002, none of the 115 claims filed by NUMEC workers were approved. Historically, roughly about half of the claimants for the program in Pennsylvania worked at NUMEC, which produced nuclear fuel for submarines and other government projects. The plants in Apollo and Parks Township, which have been razed, operated from the late 1950s until 2004.


Going to Illinois

Ameno spearheaded a successful petition for NUMEC workers to receive a special designation, known as a “special cohort,” for workers to be automatically accepted into the program if they met certain criteria such as being diagnosed with one of 22 cancers and working for the company for at least 250 days.

She traveled to Naperville, Ill., in October 2007 to testify before the President’s Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health. Also traveling to testify was Tom Haley of Washington Township, a former NUMEC engineer and Richard Parler, another NUMEC worker.


The Advisory Board granted NUMEC workers the special status, becoming only the fourth such worksite in the country at that time.

Since then, former NUMEC workers have been approved for $60 million in compensation and reimbursement for medical expenses.

The decision to grant NUMEC workers special status was based on Ameno’s and other’s presentation on the lack of company records to conduct accurate dose reconstruction for workers. They also presented evidence demonstrating that some workers may have “accumulated substantial chronic exposures through episodic intakes of radionucleotides, combined with external exposures to gamma, beta, and neutron radiation.”

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