Senator Bob Leeper told an AP reporter recently that nuclear power in the US is very safe. That statement is amazingly dishonest, considering the district Leeper represents.
Seems the good senator is deliberately ignoring the hundreds (thousands?) of injured workers exposed to beryllium and a cocktail of other radioactive elements working at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), a facility in his hometown.
A 15 page study published in Western Criminology Review written by Alan S. Bruce and Paul J. Becker is entitled “State-Corporate Crime and the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant”. The study was located in a link in an article in Huntingtonnews.net, the West Virginia paper serving the Piketon/Portsmouth Ohio gaseous diffusion plant. The paper cited Paducah as an example of what can go wrong.
On why they published their fifteen page study in a journal on criminology, Bruce and Becker wrote “Our examination of the activities and harms at PGDP that led to Energy Secretary Richardson’s apology to plant employees on behalf of the federal government leads us to classify the harms at PGDP as state-corporate crime. PGDP activities demonstrate the harm potential from state-corporate crime and necessity of continued study in this area; at a time when federal government is considering renewed and increased reliance on nuclear power (e. g. Baker and Mufson, 2006) examination of harms stemming from the nuclear industry is of particular importance.”
A massive federal pay out has been ongoing for years to reach out to workers and their families. Many of the workers who suffered and died from cancers and other illnesses didn’t make any connection to their job until it was too late to save their lives and too late for compensation.
In March, 2004. in a Senate Hearing to evaluate the program, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) acknowledged that DOE "still is miserably behind in clearing its claims backlog." DOE, Bunning said, had completely processed only 6 percent, or 1,380, of its 23,000 cases, and only one person out of the 23,000 people who had filed had received compensation for illness caused by exposure to hazards unique to nuclear weapons production and testing.
While the compensation act passed in the waning days of the Clinton administration had good intentions – Clinton called the workers “Cold War Warriors” and advocated their being treated as such – convoluted rules and crafty administrative regulations snookered many out of compensation.
For example, to apply for compensation, an injured worker or his survivors had to find a person with firsthand knowledge that the claimant was an employee at the plant. That witness would have to file a statement agreeing that the applicant was who he/she said they were. Ads blossomed in Western Kentucky classifieds with requests of “If you knew this person at the plant, please call…” This, despite the fact that the government has employment records from contractors and subcontractors and already knew who worked at the plant. Many families could not find a living person who worked with dad or mom at the plant in the Fifties. They were shut out of the application process.
Senator Leeper surely must have run into a few of these workers or their families who have little good to say about exposure to radioactive elements. Even elements that are low dosing can over time prove deadly.
Clean up at PGDP is ongoing and supposed to be completed this year. Official Department of Energy estimates n 2007 set the government’s clean up bill at 1.3 billion. Others set the clean up bill closer to 5 billion.
While the plant provided jobs in the area, it also provided great harm to workers, their families, the environment and US taxpayers. Senator Leeper and the 26 other Kentucky senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 26 can point to jobs created by the nuclear industry.
But it is the rankest hypocrisy to deny that those jobs come at a cost of life and treasure.