The Department of Labor began issuing checks under a new program aimed at compensating nuclear weapons workers who were sickened from exposure to radioactive and toxic materials during the Cold War.
A year and a half after the government admitted that nuclear weapons workers were sickened and unknowingly exposed to hazardous substances, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao presented the first compensation check on Thursday.
The compensation program was created by Congress last year. Under the program, $150,000 and related medical expenses are paid to workers who became seriously ill from exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica while working in the nuclear weapons industry for the Department of Energy and their contractors.
Although an exact number of those people who are eligible for the benefits is difficult to determine, the government estimates that 650,000 people worked directly for the Atomic Energy Commission or the Energy Department or its contractors, most of them at government-owned weapons plants, but many more worked for subcontractors, often at other locations.
by Virginia Foran