The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

Labor officials set meetings for nuclear workers

Two town hall meetings next month will focus on the Labor Department's program to pay sick nuclear workers

By Joe Walker jwalker@paducahsun.com--270.575.8656

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The U.S. Department of Labor will hold town hall meetings from 6 to 9 p.m. March 29 and 30 at the Robert Cherry Civic Center to discuss a new program to compensate nuclear workers for diseases related to toxic exposure.

Jeff Miles, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, said labor officials informed Whitfield's staff of the meetings, involving program director Pete Turcic. Similar meetings were held last month in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The March meetings will be the first time Labor Department officials have visited Paducah since Congress expanded federal legislation in October to make it easier for nuclear workers to be compensated for toxin-related diseases. There is a backlog of about 3,000 such claims at Paducah under a program formerly run by the U.S. Department of Energy. It will be May before the Labor Department has rules, procedures and staffing to start paying on the claims determined to be valid.

The new program is separate from one in which the Labor Department pays $150,000 lump-sum benefits for workers with radiation-induced cancers and chronic beryllium disease. That program has paid about $175 million to Paducah workers, and about 1,000 more cases have been referred to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to determine if there was a link between exposure and disease.

The expanded law provides for up to $250,000 for workers exposed to various toxins. Some of the sickest workers could get as much as $400,000 under both programs.

Nuclear workers will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday at the civic center with scientists from NIOSH and Oak Ridge Associated Universities to discuss a profile of historic radiation exposure at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Although the profile was for radiation exposure only, workers think it should be expanded to cover work areas and toxins to help speed up claims under the new compensation program.

Discussion Thursday will be limited to the profile because the scientists are not equipped to talk about the claims program, according to nuclear workers' union officials. Afterward, workers will be invited to the union hall on Cairo Road to meet with representatives of the local Labor Department claims office and an Energy Department-sponsored health screening program.

Claims may be filed at the Paducah Energy Employees Compensation Resource Center, 125 Memorial Drive, next to Milner & Orr Funeral Home off Blandville Road. Phone: 534-0599 or toll-free 866-534-0599. E-mail: paducah.center@eh.doe.