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Nuclear Weapons Facilities

April 2002 IBEW Journal

Because theres a lot we know now that we didnt know then, the U.S. government is playing catchuptrying to find and compensate workers who suffered illnesses working in U.S. nuclear defense facilities over the past half century.

Savannah River site high level mix waste storage tanks.
IBEW electricians are among the thousands of workers who have suffered major illnesses, including cancer, from jobs they worked decades ago. So far, the program has paid 1,647 claims totaling $121 million, with individuals eligible for $150,000 lump-sum payments, plus related medical expenses.

The new benefits are available to workers who are seriously ill as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica while working for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) or its contractors in the nuclear weapons industry.


The program is called the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). It was enacted in October 2000, went into effect July 31, 2001, and Congress has since broadened the definition of survivors eligible for benefits.

Construction of atomic weapons plants (such as those at Paducah, Kentucky; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina; and elsewhere) took place in the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Maintenance and upgrade of the DOE sites continued over following decades.

IBEW members from many locals around the country worked at the weapons plants. One of them is Gary Seay, business manager of IBEW Local 816, Paducah, Kentucky, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Some 20,000 construction workers helped build the DOE Atomic Energy Plant in Paducah that was completed in 1955, Seay said.

"In 1976, Local 816 had about 150 electricians working on major electrical upgrades at the Paducah site," said Seay. "We had no idea of the hazards that existed. Many local union members have come down with cancer."

Seay said that at Local 816 alone, he knows of at least 25 IBEW members who worked at the Paducah site and have been diagnosed with cancer. The local has contacted these members (or their survivors) to inform them of the compensation program, and the local plans to place a notice about it in the local paper and hold a seminar for members on how to submit claims.

The Federal Claims Program

The U.S. Department of Labor, which administers the program, says workers may be eligible if they contracted cancer, beryllium sensitivity, chronic beryllium disease or chronic silicosis and they were exposed to radiation, beryllium or silica while on the job. Work must have been performed for the Department of Energy, including its contractors, subcontractors, beryllium vendors and atomic weapons facilities.

Uranium miners, millers and ore transporters who were awarded benefits under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) may be eligible for an additional $50,000 compensation under EEOICPA. Those with beryllium sensitivity may receive medical monitoring.

State Workers Compensation Claims

For DOE workers with other illnesses caused by toxic exposures at work and not covered by the DOL program, the law sets up an alternative route to compensation through state workers compensation programs. Such illnesses could include: asbestosis, liver disease, nervous system disorders, non-cancerous respiratory or kidney disease, and certain reproductive disorders.

Building Trades Medical Screening Program

The Building Trades Medical Screening Program, a separate program in effect since 1993, provides former DOE nuclear defense facility construction workers with a free physical examination. If a covered disease is diagnosed, the patient is referred to the EEOICPA program. For information about the screening program, funded by DOE and coordinated through the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department, call (800) 866-9663 or (866) 812-6703.

How to Get Help

Claimants may contact an Energy Employees Compensation Resource Center (see list below) for information and help with filing claims. The centers are co-sponsored by the DOE and DOL. Claim forms are also available on the DOL Web site at www.dol.gov.

Department of Labor
Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation
Benefits Brochure

Energy Employees Compensation Resource Center Locations

In South Carolina:

1708-B Bunting Dr.,
North Augusta, SC 29841
Phone: (803) 279-2728
Fax: (803) 279-0146
Toll Free: (866) 666-4606

In New Mexico:

412 Paseo De Onate, Suite D
Espanola, NM 87532
Phone: (505) 747-6766
Fax: (505) 929-1054
Toll Free: (866) 272-3622

In Idaho:

1820 East 17th St.,
Suite 375, Exchange Plaza
Idaho Falls, ID 83404
Phone: (208) 523-0158
Fax: (208) 520-4956
Toll Free: (800) 861-8608

In Nevada:

Flamingo Executive Park
Suite W-166
1050 East Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Phone: (702) 697-0841
Fax: (702) 697-0843
Toll Free: (866) 697-0841

In Tennessee:

Jackson Plaza Office Complex
800 Oak Ridge Turnpike
Suite C 103
Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Phone: (865) 481-0411
Fax: (865) 481-8832
Toll Free: (866) 481-0411

In Kentucky:

Barkley Center, Unit 125
125 Memorial Dr.
Paducah, KY 42001
Phone: (270) 534-0599
Fax: (270) 534-8723
Toll Free: (866) 534-0599

In Ohio:

4320 Old Scioto Trail
Portsmouth, OH 45662
Phone: (740) 353-6993
Fax: (740) 353-4707
Toll Free: (866) 363-6993

In Washington:

1029 N. Kellogg St.
Kennewick, WA 99336
Phone: (509) 783-1500
Fax: (509) 783-0651
Toll Free: (888) 654-0014

In Alaska:

2501 Commercial Dr.
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 258-4070
Fax: (907) 258-4240
Toll Free: (888) 908-4070

In Colorado:

8758 Wolff Court
Suite 201
Westminster, CO 80030
Phone: (720) 540-4977
Fax: (720) 540-4976
Toll Free: (866) 540-4977