A top Department of Energy (DOE) official said Clinton administration agencies have resolved their disagreement over expanding an offer of financial aid to sickened workers at nuclear power plants.
The administration has already proposed offering medical benefits, lost-wage reimbursement, optional job retraining or a single $100,000 cash payment to workers suffering illnesses caused by beryllium exposure.
However, other exposed workers have not yet been offered compensation.
During a congressional hearing Thursday, Deputy Energy Secretary T.J. Glauthier confirmed that the idea of expanding the compensation program had drawn dissent from the Office of Management and Budget and the Justice and Defense departments. But as of this wee, he said, "Those agencies have dropped their opposition."
The government is unclear about how many of its weapons plant workers were sickened over the last 40 years by hazardous materials they handled without proper protection.
DOE has proposed $17 million to compensate the following:
Workers at any nuclear weapons facility who contracted deadly beryllium disease because of contact with the material.
Workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky who were exposed to plutonium and other radioactive material.
Some Oak Ridge, Tenn., workers who contracted radiation-related diseases.
The offer, however, did not include the plant in Piketon, Ohio, prompting an outcry from workers there who suffer from cancer and other illnesses that can be caused by radiation exposure.
After questioning Glauthier before the House Commerce Committee's energy and power subcommittee, Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, whose district includes Piketon, said he was unhappy with the compensation package.
Glauthier "still would not say definitively, unambiguously, that this compensation package would be extended to the Piketon workers," said Strickland.
DOE said it is still examining the extent to which some plutonium-laced uranium was handled at the Piketon plant, and the repercussions to workers' health.
So much evidence of Paducah exposure was available, Glauthier said, "We felt we could propose compensation at the Paducah site. The question was, should we delay and do both later."