ANALYSIS: Huntington Pilot Plant Oak Ridge-DOE Documents May Provide New Hope for Workers Denied Cold Standby Compensation

Updated 5 years ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
ANALYSIS: Huntington Pilot Plant Oak Ridge-DOE Documents May Provide New Hope for Workers Denied Cold Standby Compensation

A very preliminary assessment of newly obtained FOIA documents from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy MAY provide new nuclear compensation hope for workers  at the former Huntington Pilot Plant denied federal compensation during  the stand by period.

Terrie Barrie, founding member AIWAG (Alliance of  Nuclear Workers Advocacy Groups), told HNN that the description of the cold standby period as an "amendment" to the initial Atomic Energy Commission contract from her prior experience opens reconsideration for eligibility under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA).

"The very first page is important, I think, to get the "cold standby" workers covered, Barrie told HNN.   "International Nickel Company which operated the plant from 1951 to 1963 under Contract No. AT-(40-1) -1092.  From 1963 to the present the plant has been maintained by Huntington Alloys Inc., (HAI) in cold standby condition under a separate appendix to the original contract."   Barrie who is not an attorney  continued, "The law states that a site is a DOE facility if there is a contract for maintenance services.  This is my personal opinion and I have no training in the legal field, but if the workers are covered under original contract, and there is an appendix to the original contract for maintenance services, then I think there's a good argument the workers during the cold standby should be covered. "

A Department of Labor site indicates that $6 million  dollars has been paid to former Huntington Pilot Plant-Reduction Pilot Plant workers (or their survivors). The compensation was passed by Congress in 1990.

Inclusion under the EEOICPA of the HPP/RPP placed it with other nuclear and atomic plants that assisted in the World War II and Cold War defense efforts of the United States of America. EEOICPA compensation applies to the K-25 and Y 12 plants in Oak Ridge, the Savannah River Plant, Hanford, Rocky Flats, Nevada Test Site and others.


Some former Huntington Pilot Plant workers have been reluctant to apply for benefits or talk about their work. Many still believe all the work there remains classified. It's not as the Freedom of Information Act documents demonstrate and the Congressional passage of the EEOIPA ten years later.

Although the legacy documents from the mid to late 70s presumed no health effects, the latency period of radiation exposure and toxic chemicals proved differently at most of the covered facilities.


Other preliminary assessments:

1. The radiological survey did not apparently include any drainage/sewage aspects, which Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer and expert from Fairwinds Associates , previously indicated was a common missing element in demolition. One reported hot spot was in the area where employees took showers.

2. The latest DOL site exposure documents indicate more radioactive materials than U-235 and U-238. Only U-235 and U-238 were tested.

Barrie observed that " soil samples were not taken for thorium or plutonium - just uranium and radium.  DOL SEM lists thorium and plutonium as being present onsite.  Also, I found that strontium is listed in SEM with "painting" as the labor category involved.  That isotope wasn't tested for either."

3. Concerns were expressed about  residue system  in the 1970s memorandums.  

William H. Travis , director Safety and Environmental Control Division , stated based on the data available in that time frame, Travis wrote "the only area which might not have complied [with criteria for unrestricted release] was "the housing of the residue system and the residue system itself."  Further , at the time, there was no "de minimis [inappropriate] quantity" for enriched uranium under NRC Regulatory Guide 1.86.

The supervisor's diary obtained by HNN also indicates this area was one in which several incidents took place:

SOME HUNTINGTON INCIDENTS (as best we can make them out)
APRIL 17, 1955
“Employee dropped residue in mixer before connecting chute to mixer and consequently had a complete residue charge scattered from top to bottom of residue circuit.”
JANUARY 10, 1956
“Placed residue container which still contained residue from preceding (#6) reactor under succeeding reactor (#1). When residue from #1 reactor was dropped, it overfilled container and consequently dusted entire building. “ According to a further explanation, the residue of #6 had been dropped by the preceding shift (C) at “about shift change time” and they “had no opportunity to weigh and identify same.” The container should have been checked by above named employee before placement under the reactor.
APRIL 11, 1956
During the “bleeding” of pressure off #4 reactor prior to an apparent routine “blow out with inert” an employee [accidentally ] shut down a “circulator and external vent value on circulator dripped … oil from same. [The employee] did not close vent … after flushing… and as a result the reactor leaked down through an open and unlit (?) vent on the process building roof polluting the atmosphere with highly saturated and poisonous gas.”
Since at that time environmental laws had not been enacted and the accident involved secret atomic war materials, no report has been available as to what action was taken AFTER the April 11, 1956 incident.
In an incident involving the #4 reactor, …”practically an entire container of residue was blown out of the building…”
JUNE 20, 1962
A failure to “purge product cones with inert gas after dropping … resulted in several hours delay in recovery of product and also caused considerable anxiety in determining the seriousness of the CO4 leakage.


Travis' letter stated that "contamination levels were already below the applicable guidelines" for unrestricted release; however Traavis noted based on a radiological survey that  "political pressures may dictate otherwise."

The City of Huntington would not be notified of the decision until the 1990s.


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