by Jeff Gillan
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — They are older now, but what they did in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and up to the 2000s was kept our nuclear deterrent strong.
These old pals reunited today at the National Atomic Testing Museum at UNLV.
This was the 11th Annual National Day of Remembrance, to honor those who worked in our nuclear weapons industry.
People like Wilbur Chesser worked at the test site from 1988 to 2002.
Their job was to test and maintain our nuclear arsenal. At the test site, from 1951 to 1992, there were about a thousand above and below ground explosions.
Since 1992, the work has involved experiments that bring nuclear material just to the point of explosion.
“You can’t create the world’s most awesome weaponry without some very, very toxic, and radioactive material,” says Tim Lerew, with Cold War Patriots, the organization that put on today’s event. “Unfortunately, when you do this work day-in-day-out as many of these folks here today did, they suffer illnesses as a consequence.”
In 1990, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act,which compensates workers whose health was harmed by working in America’s nuclear complex. 2,244 claims have come from Nevada, totaling $126,978,997 – the fourth-highest number of claims from any state.
Health is one legacy. Former test site worker Bill Bauer buried nuclear waste there for years and now carries a portable oxygen unit to help his breathing.
The other legacy is these weapons and the nuclear material that powered them kept this country safe, says retired Air Force Staff Sergeant Ernest Williams. He first came to the test site in 1955.
Read more at Cold War Patriots: Former test site workers gather, remember our nuclear weapons industry