The US Department of Energy (DoE) has proposed a pilot programme to compensate current and former workers at the gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, Kentucky, who developed radiation-specific cancers. The DoE plan would not compensate workers at two other enrichment sites at Portsmouth, Ohio and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but it would provide $21.8 million for expanded medical monitoring of workers at all three sites.
Paducah employees have for years complained that they have suffered an increase in cancers due to working with uranium they did not know also contained plutonium. The exposure began in the 1950s and may have continued in certain instances until the early 1990s. The DoE now acknowledges the presence of the plutonium.
According to Bill Richardson, US Energy Secretary, the compensation reflects “my commitment to address concerns about environmental, safety and health issues at the gaseous diffusion plants”.
Conflict still exists between the DoE and Paducah workers over the current situation. Whistleblowers gave evidence to Congress on 22 September and claimed that problems still exist today regarding worker protection and also cited evidence of a cover up over past illegal dumping.