OPINIONS
Story last updated at 1:33 p.m. on Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Your Views


Comments on 'Dateline' segment

To The Oak Ridger:

The Monday, Aug. 30, "Dateline" segment on Dr. William Reid was a long time coming. There was certainly not enough time allotted to the program to do the issues involved justice, but I feel some amount of vindication was gained by Dr. Reid and his family.

At the time he was "under the microscope," I was, myself, a bit skeptical of his findings, after all, it had only been a short time since I had been diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease. I had not yet begun to understand the scope and magnitude of the health problems around the DOE complex.

After months of obtaining records through the DOE Public Reading Room, DOE's OpenNet Web site, the Denver Beryllium Support Group, as well as articles from the Toledo Blade, Arizona Daily Star, Washington Post, and a multitude of other sources, the pattern began to fall into place.

Although beryllium disease can be confirmed through specific testing, clusters of diseases with glaringly similar symptoms have appeared at multiple sites, other than Oak Ridge, such as the rare childhood cancers on Long Island, near Brookhaven Lab.

I find this more than coincidental, and am reminded of an old adage which states, "just because you didn't see the hornet, doesn't mean you didn't get stung."

The position of the city of Oak Ridge gave me the impression that the city feels Dr. Reid's story was contrived. "A typical sensational lies story" was a quote from the mayor's office.

Let me assure you, that the time I spent in the Methodist Medical Center two weeks ago, being treated for chronic beryllium disease, was neither sensational, nor lies. I am still unable to return to work because of continuing breathing problems, fatigue, and insomnia.

As I've mentioned before, my symptoms were misdiagnosed as asthma for almost 10 years before beryllium-specific testing proved otherwise. My work and exposure histories were known, but no extraordinary effort was made to confirm or deny the work-relatedness of my illness. Heaven forbid, there might be litigation and liability!

The now-public disclosures of beryllium disease at ETTP, the plutonium at Paducah, the expansion of the Uranium Miners' Compensation to cover ore-processing personnel, the fact that Hanford is more polluted than Chernobyl, the proof of destruction of pertinent health records at Idaho Falls and at Oak Ridge, all come as no surprise to me. It was happening all along, right under our noses.

Now the moratorium on the release of classified documents, due to the "China spy" scandal, has again slowed the release of information that might make the "non-specific" cases more provable.

I am curious, also, about why the Methodist Medical Center felt it had to resort to near-full page ads to respond to the "Dateline" segment.

I have had positive dealings over the years with MMC, and hope to continue to do so. But then I have never had to deal with their upper management or PR machine. The post seems to be another vindication of Dr. Reid, although there were/are legal and personal issues still unresolved.

As for Dr. Reid "losing in every legal arena," this is certainly not uncommon when a citizen with very limited funds goes up against a corporate or government entity.

A good case in point is that of Paducah worker Joe Harding, who died in 1980 of work-related causes, but the government reputedly spent at least $4 million to defeat his workers comp case.

I was made aware of another case only this week, this one at Pantex, where "the company" spent $300,000 to fight a beryllium victim's $88,000 workers' comp claim.

The individuals and corporations are different, but the results the same. By the way, how much was spent by MMC on the Reid case?

My primary concern in these issues is that the ill workers receive intervention and treatment, and a "real" effort be made to solve them once and for all, not the common "inconclusive by design" studies so prevalent in the DOE complex.

Again, my thanks to those of DOE, both locally and at headquarters, who have had the audacity to say "Enough," and do their part to help the ill workers. Those thanks also go out to ORO management who have made the same commitment.

To those who still look at property values and the city's image over the health of those of us unlucky enough to be impacted, I hope you never have to sit through a night like some of mine have been, not knowing if this might be your last. And quality of life takes on a whole new meaning.

Glenn Bell
504 Michigan Ave.

Follow-up on Smyser column

To The Oak Ridger:

Dick Smyser's columns are always well done and interesting, but I was especially interested in his column of Tuesday, Aug. 24 (p. 7A). That one reported on a luncheon talk for FORNL given by Robert G. Kennedy III.

In his report, Dick included some 1949 comments by six local top officials on hearing the news of the USSR's first atom bomb test.

Several of them were surprised that the Russians had succeeded so soon. One said the USSR success pointed up that the U.S. had no monopoly on scientific brains or applied know-how.

Quoting people I knew personally sure brought this bit of history back to life for me. Of course the commentors that day did not know what we began to learn the following year that the USSR success was not entirely the result of their own efforts.

The U.S. only later learned this first device tested by the USSR was ""precise copy" of the first U.S. nuclear device tested at Alamogordo in July 1945, and that Klaus Fuchs, "British physicist working at Los Alamos, with the help of some American citizens, gave the USSR precise drawings and measurements of the "Fat Man" device that had "plutonium core imploded by some very sophisticated high-explosive lenses.

The USSR was given this in June 1945, the month before our New Mexico test and over "month before the Nagasaki drop. This story is told for example in Richard Rhodes' book "Dark Sun," Simon & Schuster, p.364, for the "precise copy" statement, and figures 26 & 27 for the Fuchs information.

USSR physicists like Kurchatov, Khariton, Sakarov and many others together with their weapon engineers certainly proved their own brilliance and capabilities in the following years of the Cold War.

Some people today, however, may not realize that back in the height of World War II, USSR's Lavrenti Beria's NKVD infiltrated and persuaded "few trusted people in our wartime midst to violate their security loyalty agreements and give to the USSR some of our hard-won secrets.

U.S. physicists gathered with their ideas at Los Alamos first in March-April 1943 to start developing "militarily usable weapon to try to end that awful war.

They invented, produced, and proved by testing the world's first nuclear "weapon" device in "little over two years and three months. (See for example R. Rhodes, "The Making of the Atom Bomb," S&S, 1986, p.460).

Stalin, Smyser reports, never ordered his country's all-out effort on the bomb until after Nagasaki in August 1945. The USSR copy of that device, "First Lightning," was not tested tested in Kazakhstan until August 1949, four years after our "Trinity" test.

They had our design and proof it worked five times: at Trinity, Nagasaki, and at three "Sandstone" tests in the Pacific in 1948. (James Gibson, "Nuclear Weapons of the U.S.," Schiffer Publishing, 1996, p. 88.) Having the principle and proof of it surely was "big help.

Bill Wilcox
412 New York Ave.


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