DEVELOPING: Expansion of Nuclear Worker Illness Benefits Again Denied to Certain INCO Workers

Updated 6 years ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
DEVELOPING: Expansion of Nuclear Worker Illness Benefits Again Denied to Certain INCO Workers

A request to reclassify a broader section of International Nickel Company (INCO) workers as eligible for Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) has been denied by the Department of Labor. Faye Vlieger, Alliance for Nuclear Worker Advocacy Group (ANWAG) made the request on August 15, 2012, following an HNN article that questioned the interpretation of residual radiation documents posed on the Department of Energy (DOE) site.

Rachel P. Leiton, director, division of energy employees, Occupational Illness Compensation, stated:

The Reduction Pilot Plant (RPP, a.k.a. Huntington Pilot Plant) was both built and owned by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and was operated for the AEC by the International Nickel Company (INCO), a Department of Energy (DOE) contractor from 1951-1963. Therefore, for the purposes of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) , the RPP meets the definition of a “DOE Facility” for those same years --- 1951 through 1963 --- because those are the years that “operations” were conducted on behalf of DOE and its predecessor agencies. From 1964 through 1977 (the years you asked about in your email), the RPP was maintained in a “standby” condition and no “operations” took place until it was demolished in 1978 and 1979, those two additional years are also part of the covered time period for the RPP.

“Because the RPP was a DOE facility rather than an Atomic Weapons Employer (AWE) facility, there is no provision in EEOICPA that extends coverage to employees of INCO who worked outside of the current covered time period at an AWE facility under certain special circumstances. However, there is NOTHING in the statute that extends coverage to DOE contractor employees under the same set of circumstances.”

Ms. Leiton stated that HNN had questioned the covered period based on a set of notes  utilized when the RPP was “eliminated” from the Formerly Utilized Sites Remediation Action Program (FUSRAP).

“My staff is aware of these notes and they were considered in conjunction with deliberations regarding the covered time period for the RPP. While there is some overlap of issues between FUSRAP and EEOICPA, there are also important legal and policy distinctions….it is always best to utilize original documents rather than secondary sources…”

However, the Department of Labor has possibly failed to link the set of notes upon which HNN questioned the time frames of the RPP residual radiation --- both before and after its date of official operations.

The handwritten notes came from a Department of Energy Legacy website and are bundled with documents which also determine the site to be apparently clear under 1980 standards of radiation. It stated that the contractor in the 1940s sold nickel powder to MED, which is an abbreviation for Manhattan Engineering District, i.e. the Manhattan Project which produced the Atomic Bomb in WW II. (Note: Certain classified materials are "sunset" after 50 years and some documents opened to the public may or may not have been available for full consideration at the time of original determinations.)

See, http://www.lm.doe.gov/Considered_Sites/Reduction_Pilot_Plant_-_WV_01.aspx.

Furthermore, the exposure matrix assumed approximately 39% as the highest enriched level of uranium at the Huntington facility. However, the plant did receive materials from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant which worked with materials up to 97% assay , according to DOE and court documents from that site.

A former employee of PGDP has stated many times that materials were sent from Portsmouth which “contaminated” the Huntington facility resulting in its eventual demolition and burial in a landfill at the Piketon plant.

Furthermore, during the non-operating time frame of 1970-2008, the DOE lists an “incident” at the site involving toxic materials.

http://www.sem.dol.gov/expanded/Incident2.cfm
http://www.lm.doe.gov/Considered_Sites/Reduction_Pilot_Plant_-_WV_01.aspx

Finally, the RPP/HPP had been originally designated as both an Atomic Weapons Employer and a DOE site. However, during a worker’s benefit appeal, DOE determined that the AWE classification was incorrect.

http://www.oha.doe.gov/cases/wa/tia0015.pdf

The elimination document (http://www.lm.doe.gov/Considered_Sites/Reduction_Pilot_Plant_-_WV_01.aspx ) which followed an inspection authored by Oak Ridge Associated Universities under contract with the DOE ORNL identified “certain areas” following the demolition for which they contracted additional uranium residual testing in 1980.due to “uranium in surface soil and elevated gamma radiation in the remains of an elevator shaft and inside the compressor building.

The DOE contracted study found several hotspots for Uranium 238 and Uranium 235. The report stated the analysis differs from a “low of 14% to a high of 440%. The reason for the differences is not known but investigation is continuing.”  (p. 23)

During an outreach meeting at Local 40 of the United Steelworkers, CDC/NIOSH in 2006, the minutes stated “the site profile team uses records from the DOE and its contractors during the developments of the site profile documents, NIOSH and ORAU (Oak Ridge Associated Universities) “need information from former workers” as the “official” records do not always “reflect the work practices and radiation safety issues of a given site.

At that meeting workers sought a broader analysis of residual radiation at the INCO plant, the concrete slab (footprint of the processing portion buried in Piketon), and the still in use Compressor area.

The workers alleged:

Comment:

Workers would go to the Pilot Plant and take scrap to the induction furnaces in other parts of the plant. There are sworn affidavits.

 

Comment:

The scrap was used in places other than the Refinery.

 

Comment:

It was used in the tubing department, too.

 

Comment:

Material from the induction furnaces was reworked in the machine shop. We made valves and parts for the stand-by area.

 

Comment:

By-product from RPP was sent to the scrapyard as scrap.

 

Comment:

I worked at the open-hearth furnaces. We would go get scrap from the yard for our melts. In the open-hearth furnaces, we would take the piggins, or small butts, of nickel scrap to feed into the circuit. The stuff was tested that came into the Pilot Plant. When the nickel workers went on strike in Canada – around 1976, if I recall correctly – we used nickel butts from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The Geiger counters would go off like machine guns.

 

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ocas/pdfs/tbd/outreach/wo010506.pdf

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