News Release

Fallout From Nuclear Exposure


Newspaper accounts this week report that workers were unknowingly exposed to deadly radioactive isotopes at key Department of Energy facilities. The following analysts are available for interviews:

Founder and director of Downwinders, a group of people exposed to radiation during nuclear tests, Truman said: “The news that the workers at Paducah (Ky.) and Oak Ridge (Tenn.) were unknowingly exposed to plutonium and other dangerous isotopes for up to three decades is yet another tragic example of the price paid by average American citizens for this country’s nuclear weapons policy. For decades, these workers were led to believe by the government that they were only dealing with uranium. They were never informed that they were also engaged in the much more dangerous reprocessing of spent fuel rods from naval nuclear reactors. Nor was the public living around these facilities informed that many of these same isotopes that workers now charge resulted in cancer and other illnesses were slowly leaking into their local water supplies… Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has now made his promise that the endless excuses will stop. The proof is in the pudding — the Secretary and the Department have a long way to go to put substance behind those promises.”
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Program director of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Eldredge has just returned from the “Beyond the Bomb” conference in New Mexico sponsored by Peace Action. She said: “We are continually finding more exposures than has previously been admitted by the government. The same pattern is repeated as people try to find information about their health problems, and government denies problems exist and only admits when it’s forced to… This isn’t just about past contamination. We have ongoing nuclear weapons production at Oak Ridge in Tennessee, Savannah River in South Carolina, Los Alamos in New Mexico and Lawrence Livermore in California. Most of these facilities are not in compliance with environmental law and there are weekly reports of worker contamination.”
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The general counsel for the American Environmental Health Studies Project, Kittrell has represented sick workers at Oak Ridge, Tenn. She said: “This situation highlights how much atomic workers need benefits given to them rather than relying on the corrupted workers compensation system to determine if their illness was related to their workplace. The administration should revisit its proposal to limit medical disease benefits… This is a general public health matter — nuclear workers are the canaries in the coal mine for many of us… The DOE has had lawyers practicing medicine and doctors practicing law — they purposely refuse to look at the health outcome for workers and others because they don’t want the liability.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167