A federal advisory group will consider this week further easing the requirements for some Hanford workers to receive $150,000 in compensation plus medical care if they have developed certain cancers.
The Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health will meet at the Red Lion Richland Hanford House at 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday. The public meeting is scheduled to address easing rules for certain Hanford workers about 3 p.m. Wednesday, followed by public comments at 4:30 p.m.
The board will hear a presentation on the lack of radiation monitoring for construction workers at Hanford, including those employed by J.A. Jones Construction Services Co. from 1984 through Feb. 28, 1987, and Kaiser Engineers Hanford from March 1, 1987, through the end of 1990.
The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program requires that radiation exposure be estimated for Hanford workers who develop cancer to determine if their cancer likely was caused by radiation. However, if too little information is available to estimate exposure for groups of employees, they may be designated “special exposure cohorts” with eased rules.
They may be automatically compensated if they were employed for at least 250 days at Hanford and then developed certain cancers that medical research has linked to radiation exposure. A reconstruction of their estimated radiation exposure is not required to show they received enough radiation to likely cause the cancer.
Special exposure cohorts already have been approved to ease the cancer compensation rules for most Hanford workers from Oct. 1, 1943, through 1983.
As officials with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have looked at information available for workers employed later than 1983, questions have been raised about the monitoring program for internal radiation exposure of construction workers. That monitoring can be done by assessing body waste, including urine.
A new report on adding a construction worker special exposure cohort said that construction workers from 1984 through 1990 were assigned to a broad range of work to support research, fuel handling, plutonium processing, decontamination and decommissioning, and reactor outages in Hanford facilities.
They worked in the N Reactor, the PUREX fuel reprocessing facilities, research facilities and the Plutonium Finishing Plant and related facilities.
J.A. Jones and Kaiser used their own procedures for monitoring the internal radiation exposure of their construction workers, which were fundamentally different from those used by Hanford operations contractors during those years, according to the report.
Many J.A. Jones employees did not participate in a bioassay program to monitor their internal radiation exposure, and workers have said that management was reluctant to implement a better program because of an estimated $1 million annual cost, according to the report.
When Kaiser took over construction work at Hanford, it had a plan to expand the bioassay program. But a Battelle Internal Dosimetry Program Monthly Report from May 1998 said the plan “has had a somewhat inauspicious beginning,” in part because of funding shortages. During April, 21 workers were to have routine bioassays, but urine samples were received from just two workers.
Not until 1991 did monitoring for internal radiation exposure for construction workers become adequate for the current compensation program to estimate the exposure of construction workers, the report said.
There also are questions about which subcontracted employees were doing construction work from 1984 through 1990 and who was responsible to monitor their internal radiation exposure, according to the report.
It proposes a special exposure cohort that could cover construction and subcontracted employees in those years, but would exclude employees of Department of Energy prime contractors other than J.A. Jones and Kaiser for the years those two contractors were in charge of construction.
The excluded contractors would be Battelle, Westinghouse and Hanford Environmental Health Foundation from 1984 through 1990 and Rockwell Hanford Operations, UNC Nuclear Industries and Boeing Computer Services Richland from 1984 through June 28, 1987.
If the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health recommends a new special exposure cohort, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services then must accept the recommendation. That is followed by 30 days in which Congress may object before the special exposure cohort becomes final.
The cancers covered by special exposure cohorts, with some restrictions, include bone and renal cancer, some leukemias, lung cancer, multiple myeloma, some lymphomas, and primary cancers of the bile ducts, brain, breast, colon, esophagus, gall bladder, liver, ovary, pancreas, pharynx, salivary gland, small intestine, stomach, thyroid and bladder.
If the worker is no longer living, family members may be eligible to file a claim for the compensation. More information on how to file a claim is available by calling the Richland Resource Center at 509-946-3333 or 888-654-0014.