Columbus TV Station Reports Former Portsmouth Nuke Workers Alleging Criminal Cover Up

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Columbus TV Station Reports Former Portsmouth Nuke Workers Alleging Criminal Cover Up

PIKETON, OHIO (HNN) – Nuclear plant debate entered a firestorm when representatives came to the site of the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant to discuss future endeavors.

The community as a whole fervently supports new industrial development, including nuclear. They want the jobs. And, those favoring continued nuclear uses often slip in a phrase concerning safety of workers and the environment.

On the other side, former workers at the PGDP paint a chilling picture of unknown exposures to chemicals and radioactive elements either without their knowledge or by hearing, ‘it won’t hurt you’ from supervisors.

Jeffrey Walburn worked as a highly trained security guard there for 31 years watching over the most sensitive areas of the N-plant. But, as , Walburn told WBNS-TV (Channel 10, Columbus) his life changed forever in July 1994.

He stood outdoors when unwillingly exposed to a deadly chemical cocktail.

"There were 26 chemicals they were shooting into a cylinder above our position," Walburn told WBNS. "As were talking, the atmosphere changed, something changed. It was like we were being stung all over. I was spitting out granulated pieces of lung out of my mouth. My hair come out. I was burnt clear through. It was quite a horrible thing to go through."

According to the WBNS report, Charles Lawson had been assigned as safety officer to investigate Walburn’s injury.

One of the first signs of trouble, Lawson said, was an irregularity with the badge worn by Walburn and other employees that detected and record radiation exposure.

"When I went to the health physics department and asked about it, they said, 'We were told that he might sue, and they're trying to make it easier to understand by saying he got a zero dose,'" the WBNS report stated.

Once Walburn filed a suit, the plant’s health physics supervisor said many of the employee records had been altered and the supervisor did not consider the dosage records accurate. Both men told the TV station they do not know how many coworkers may have been exposed.

Walburn's former employer, the United States Enrichment Corporation, said in a statement released to WBNS on Thursday that Walburn has filed multiple claims against USEC and other contractors who ran the plant, all of which have been dismissed.

Walburn and Lawson recently submitted documents to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking the attorney general to look into what they believe to be a criminal cover-up.

( Editor’s Note: The WBNS report can be found by clicking here: . )

An inspection of some of the federal court documents reveal that Walburn’s claims were filed under the whistle blower statute. The reason for dismissing one of his cases was not on the merits; it was because another employee of the company had earlier made more general complaints in a suit. Under the law, the first case prevented Walburn from pursuing his claims, even though his were more specific.

In the original 1996 investigation report, Lockheed Martin found that:

• Records of small radiation exposures to workers routinely were reduced to zero.

• Its dosimetry lab was accredited but should have been disqualified for using an uncertified worker.

• When a bar-code scanner couldn’t read dosimetry badges, a worker instead swiped the

scanner over unused badges affixed to a lab wall.

• Unexplained changes were made in workers’ records.

• Hundreds of reports of high or questionable exposures awaiting investigation were piled under a supervisor’s desk

Walburn also testified before Congress in 2000 and was interviewed by CBS News Correspondent Peter Maer. Following these actions, the Clinton Administration admitted that certain nuclear workers had been exposed to cancer causing materials. Prior to the year 2000, the government had refused to acknowledge workers' health problems might be linked to work at the plants, all of which were part of the U.S. nuclear weapons production effort during the Cold War. Congress passed The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act that year which provides lifetime medical benefits for workers and cash payments to them or their eligible survivors.
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