The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Saturday, September 30, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

Compensation plan revived for helping sick nuclear workers

Staff report
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, said there is a 90 percent chance Congress will approve a compensation program for sick workers at nuclear weapons plants, including the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

Speaking at a news conference Friday at the plant, Whitfield said House and Senate negotiators are using the Senate version of the compensation plan to craft a compromise. He said it will define what illnesses qualify for benefits, and require either this administration or the next to define what benefits will be offered to current and former workers.

Different versions of bills have proposed from $100,000 to $200,000 cash payments, plus medical benefits. Whitfield said the program will cost about $1.7 billion before expiring in 10 years.

The compensation plan, thought to be dead earlier this week, has been revived because of political arm-twisting from Whitfield and lawmakers from other states that have weapons-related plants.

Whitfield said election-year politics also helped to revive the measure.

"The politics of not approving this is horrible .... when you walk away from the responsibility of taking care of people who contracted illnesses because of exposure to things that you knew were there but didn't tell them about," Whitfield said. "It also is the right thing to do."