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Thousands of USA’s Oak Ridge nuclear workers sick and dying from cancers and other radiation-caused illnesses

Of the 33,480, the government has specifically acknowledged that exposure to radiation or other toxins on the job likely caused or contributed to the deaths of 15,809 workers. And this tally almost certainly underestimates the total dead among the 600,000 who worked in the weapons program at its peak.

The women who worked at the plant were told to keep their mouths shut, and those
who talked about their jobs were quickly let go.

death-nuclearFlag-USANuclear workers: Projects’ results were worth illnesses, deaths Amarillo.com  December 28, 2015 Tribune News Service Editor’s note: This is the third story in a series examining the health problems that afflict the U.S. nuclear workforce as the government launches a $1 trillion plan to modernize the arsenal.

In 1944, when the feds wanted young women to help out with a top-secret project in the hills of Tennessee, they found 19-year-old Evelyn Babb.

She grew up on four acres in Appalachia, where her family had one milk cow and a couple dozen chickens. She jumped at the chance to make 70 cents an hour at the new Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn., twisting knobs on dials, with no clue what she was doing. Bosses advised her to tell friends she was making highchairs for infants.

When President Harry Truman dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Babb learned the truth: She had helped produce the atomic hell that killed thousands of Japanese as one of the climactic acts of World War II.

………. Babb is one of the at least 33,480 deceased Americans who qualified for compensation from the federal government for illnesses linked to their work at 325 current and defunct nuclear sites.

In many cases, the money went to survivors. Of the 33,480, the government has specifically acknowledged that exposure to radiation or other toxins on the job likely caused or contributed to the deaths of 15,809 workers. And this tally almost certainly underestimates the total dead among the 600,000 who worked in the weapons program at its peak.

The plants with the highest number of deaths are the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, with 3,741, and the Hanford Site in Washington state, with 3,461. They’re the sites that provided the plutonium and uranium for the bombs, nicknamed Fat Man and Little Boy, that Truman used to wipe out Hiroshima and Nagasaki as part of the nation’s top-secret Manhattan Project.

“The death numbers tell you something, but they are just a slice of the story,” said Ralph Hutchison, a former Presbyterian pastor who’s coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, a group that has held peace vigils outside the Y-12 plant every Sunday for the last 16 years. “What’s the quality of life for people who have debilitating chronic illnesses?”

The number of dead is sure to grow much higher.

Seventy years after the atomic bombings, thousands of former workers at Department of Energy nuclear sites are sick from cancers and other diseases after being exposed to radiation, a long list of toxins and a brew of other dangerous substances.

Yet more than half of the 107,394 workers who have sought help since 2001 — 51.1 percent — have been denied, TNS’ investigation found.

And many workers have endured years of guilt after they unknowingly helped produce weapons of mass destruction.

“I felt proud until I started realizing that I had a part in killing all those people, and that’s something I didn’t believe in,” said Ruth Huddleston, 90, of Oliver Springs, Tenn., who went to work at Y-12 at age 18. “I had helped kill thousands of people.”……….http://amarillo.com/news/latest-news/2015-12-28/nuclear-workers-projects-results-were-worth-illnesses-deaths#.VoMfhne5dh0.twitter

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December 30, 2015 - Posted by | employment, health, USA

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