Special cohort needed for Hanford workers

By the Herald editorial staff

We're not nuclear scientists or radiation experts, but we're willing to accept the recommendation from those who are -- especially after years of study.

Congress should approve the special exposure cohort for Hanford workers currently being recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

A special cohort would make automatic $150,000 in compensation and extend medical coverage to potentially hundreds of sick Hanford workers who were employed for at least 250 days from Oct. 1, 1943, through June 30, 1972.

In the case of deceased workers, surviving family may be eligible for the payment.

The money would cover certain types of cancers that have been linked to radiation exposure. Until now, Hanford workers have faced a tough standard of having to provide a record of their exposure, not just have the cancer.

Unfortunately, record keeping from the early days at Hanford isn't all that reliable. (This is why the cleanup operation is always finding little surprises buried here and there.)

This artificial hurdle has led to three times as many claims being denied as those that have been approved.

By acknowledging probable exposure levels for special cohorts, many of those claims that have been previously denied or stalled could be approved.

The burden of proof for Cold War workers who have contracted cancer has been applied unevenly. Special exposure cohorts have been formed at other nuclear sites with inadequate records, and an advisory committee of the federal government voted unanimously last week to form one here.

This recommendation has been years in the making. There's no need to make sick Hanford workers or their families wait any longer.