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New pressure on Congress to provide insufficient breathing space for Hanford sick workers

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Washington State Representative Adam Smith on Thursday re-enacted legislation to make it easier for workers in Hanford, other parts of the country, who have the environmental legacy of the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

Smith և Murray was joined by Senate Energy Committee Chairman West Virginia Sen. Oo Manchin, raising fresh hopes for a proposal that Congress failed to implement last year.

The legislation was inspired by the Breaking National 2020 A March investigation into the health and economic well-being of 46-year-old Bill Evans Jr., who was forced to retire early from the Hanford Cleanup Project when he suffered an unexplained seizure.

The Times study found that Evans was among more than 560 Hanford workers between 2012 and October 2016 who were tasked with dismantling and dismantling the Plutonium Graduate Plant, a heavily polluted building where Plutonium has been developed for decades to supply sparks to nuclear warheads.

Workers’ breathing apparatus may leak, but prior to The Times, Hanford contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company reported that only about 150 workers could be exposed to dangerous equipment.

In addition to Evans, others reported health problems, worrying that their illnesses might be affected by the workplace. But because their conditions could not be directly linked to the existing matrix of hazards in the workplace, they were not eligible to receive benefits from the Federal Energy Workers’ Occupational Disease Compensation Program, established in 2000. In Congress. The program provides health և financial benefits of up to $ 250,000 to affected workers or their surviving relatives.

“There is so much we do not know when it comes to the health effects of the toxic substances needed to produce plutonium, the other actions at other nuclear sites that Hanford workers go through,” Murray said.

“This legislation takes the right steps to help bridge this knowledge gap to ensure that Hanford workers and those at other nuclear refineries can reap the full benefits.”

The legislation, backed by the Hanford Workers’ Union, a nuclear advocate, will expand the list of groups of workers և diseases that can be classified as benefits. It calls for clinical and epidemiological studies, as conducted by the Federal Government, to determine eligibility benefits for workers affected by radiation exposure.

It borrows from the main point of view of the law passed by the state of Washington in 2018. The presumption of competence of workers suffering from certain health diseases at Hanford. Under federal law, skilled workers are considered eligible for benefits under state law, but their employers can challenge employees’ eligibility if they suspect that factors outside of work have caused health problems.

Sick workers at the Hanford workplace can claim compensation through the State Department of Labor, the Department of Energy, and Third-Party Insurance Insurers. However, state benefit restrictions often fail to adequately cover the family’s usual expenses when they face significant medical bills.

Evans pursues government benefits that can pay him up to 60% of Hanford’s salary և federal benefits. His family’s once-comfortable lifestyle has put an end to his illness, and he worries that they will lose their home.

“This legislation will take the burden of proof on some plaintiffs to prove their reasoning. It will have requirements based on the consent of the scientific community,” said Terry Barry, a founding member of the Nuclear Workers’ Advocacy Alliance. including Evans in pursuit of benefits.

Barry has asked the US Department of Labor to designate a group of workers affected by the leaky airway in Hanford who are eligible for federal poisoning benefits.

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