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California law to protect workers, community and environment, as Diablo nuclear power plant to close

California Gov. Brown Signs Historic Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Bill, https://www.powermag.com/press-releases/california-gov-brown-signs-historic-diablo-canyon-nuclear-plant-bill/Power Magazine,  09/20/2018 SACRAMENTO, CA  – California Gov. Jerry Brown today signed into law a bill to protect the environment, workers, and local communities during the closure of  California’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo.Senate Bill 1090, which had wide bipartisan support, will help to ensure that the electricity generated by the giant plant is replaced with zero-carbon options led by energy efficiency and renewable energy. The new law also mandates full funding of a $350 million employee retention program and the $85 million community impact mitigation program, which are needed to ensure that the plant is adequately staffed and essential emergency services are provided through the end of the plant’s license period in 2025.

Plant owner Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), citizen and environmental groups including NRDC, and labor organizations in June 2016 announced an agreement to close the two reactors by August 2025 and replace their generation with lower-cost, zero-carbon alternatives. Their joint proposal asked the California Public Utilities Commission to authorize the replacement of the electricity being generated by the plant 250 miles south of San Francisco with emissions-free options led by energy efficiency, wind and solar power, and included protections for plant workers and surrounding communities during the transition. When the CPUC rejected much of the historic joint proposal in January, supporters turned to the Legislature.

Following is a statement from Ralph Cavanagh, energy program co-director at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Governor Brown made climate history again today when he signed this legislation to specifically authorize that Diablo Canyon’s electricity generation be replaced with carbon-free resources like energy efficiency and wind and solar power. This groundbreaking legislation also ensures that we account for the full impact of the plant’s closure on the workers and surrounding communities.”

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September 21, 2018 Posted by | employment, USA | Leave a comment

US govt plan to improve worker safety at Hanford polluted nuclear site

US agrees to improve worker safety at polluted nuclear site https://www.fox13memphis.com/news/us-agrees-to-improve-worker-safety-at-polluted-nuclear-site/837630607, By: PHUONG LE, Associated Press, Sep 19, 2018 –  SEATTLE (AP) – The U.S. government will test and implement a new system to capture and destroy dangerous vapors released at the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site as part of a settlement agreement reached Wednesday.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told reporters that the agreement represents a major win for hundreds of workers who have been getting sick for years while cleaning up the nation’s nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington.

“Those workers deserve to be protected,” Ferguson said.

He added that the U.S. Department of Energy did not take the issue seriously and resisted putting protections in place.

“There’s no way to sugar coat this,” Ferguson said.

The Energy Department will for the first time test a new technology that Ferguson called “game-changing” that would protect workers from the vapor exposures.

Under the agreement, the agency will pay $925,000 in fees and costs to the state and Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group that has for decades been warning about worker safety. The agency will also install a new vapor monitoring and alarm system and maintain safety measures that are currently in place, including supplying air and respirators.

The Department of Energy said in an emailed statement that the agreement “acknowledges the extensive actions” that the agency, and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions LLC, have taken to protect workers from potential exposure to chemical vapors.

The agency said they continue to “take a very conservative approach to protecting workers from potential exposures to chemical vapors” and that agreement reinforces the ongoing effort.

The state, Hanford Challenge and the pipefitters union Local 598 sued the Energy Department in 2015 and its contractor for tank farms containing nuclear waste, seeking better protection for workers at risk of inhaling vapors or gases that leaked from underground storage tanks.

The agreement puts that federal lawsuit on hold while the Energy Department tests and implements a new system to capture and destroy vapors escaping waste tanks. Ferguson said if the federal agency doesn’t meet its obligations, legal action could resume.

“Hearing and documenting dozens of stories of sick workers was heartbreaking,” said Meredith Crafton, a lawyer representing Hanford Challenge, whose voice broke as she spoke to reporters.

The agreement protects workers in the interim but also creates incentives to find better technology to protect workers in the future, she said.

The 586-square-mile (943-square-kilometer) Hanford nuclear site located along the Columbia River in Eastern Washington state produced up to 70 percent of the plutonium for the U.S. nuclear arsenal since it was established in World War II.

Hanford has 177 underground tanks made of steel that contain more that 54 million gallons (204 million liters) of radioactive and chemical wastes.

Ferguson said studies over the last 20 years, including by the Energy Department and other government agencies, have shown workers falling ill after being exposed to the vapors. They’ve experienced dizziness, nausea and other issues.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | employment, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Hinkley nuclear deal with union – work will continue in the event of a worker death accident

Construction Enquirer 13th Sept 2018 , Construction union Unite has agreed a deal to carry on working if anyone is
killed during construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. The
Enquirer understands that construction workers were encouraged to agree to
the deal last month to protect payouts to the family of any worker who dies
on the project. It goes against standard practice to down tools on site in
the event of a fatality.
http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2018/09/13/hinkley-workers-sign-no-death-stoppage-deal/

September 14, 2018 Posted by | employment, UK | Leave a comment

Solar power industry gives opportunity for retraining coal workers for good alternative employment

An alternative to propping up coal power plants: Retrain workers for solar, The Conversation,Joshua M. Pearce, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University, August 23, 2018The Trump administration announced new pollution rules for coal-fired power plants designed to keep existing coal power plants operating more and save American coal mining jobs.

Profitability for U.S. coal power plants has plummeted, and one major coal company after another has filed for bankruptcy, including the world’s largest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy.

The main reason coal is in decline is less expensive natural gas and renewable energy like solar. Coal employment has dropped so low there are fewer than 53,000 coal miners in total in the U.S. (for comparison, the failing retailer J.C. Penny has about twice as many workers).

The EPA estimates the new rules will cause about 1,400 more premature deaths a year from coal-related air pollution by 2030. The Trump administration could avoid the premature American deaths from coal pollution – which amount to about 52,000 per year in total – and still help the coal miners themselves by retraining them for a more profitable industry, such as the solar industry.

study I co-authored analyzed the question of retraining current coal workers for employment in the solar industry. We found that this transition is feasible in most cases and would even result in better pay for nearly all of the current coal workers.

How to make the jump?

What is left of the coal mining industry represents a unique demographic compared to the rest of America. It is white (96.4 percent); male (96.2 percent); aging, with an average age of 43.8 years old; and relatively uneducated, with 76.7 percent having earned only a high school degree or equivalent. Many are highly skilled, however, with the largest sector of jobs being equipment operators at 27 percent. Many of these skills can be transferred directly into the solar industry.

In the study, we evaluated the skill sets of current coal workers and tabulated salaries. For each type of coal position, we determined the closest equivalent solar position and tried to match current coal salaries. We then quantified the time and investment required to retrain each worker.

Our results show there is a wide variety of employment opportunities in solar – the industry overall already employs more than five times more people than in coal mining, at over 250,000 by one industry group estimate. We also found the annual pay is generally better at all levels of education, even with the lowest-skilled jobs. For example, janitors in the coal industry could increase their salaries by 7 percent by becoming low-skilled mechanical assemblers in the solar industry.

Overall, we found that after retraining, technical workers (the vast majority) would make more money in the solar industry than they do in coal. Also note this study was about careers and was done before an uptick in the practice of hiring temporary coal workers. The only downside on salaries we found are that managers and particularly executives would make less in solar than coal. This represents only about 3.2 percent of coal workers that are professional administrators.

Retraining needs

How would coal workers make this transition? There are over 40 types of solar jobs which the DOE has mapped out. They range from entry-level jobs, such as installers, to more advanced positions in engineering and technical design. Most coal workers could not simply walk into a solar job; they would need some retraining. But certain positions require less training…………https://theconversation.com/an-alternative-to-propping-up-coal-power-plants-retrain-workers-for-solar-101961

September 8, 2018 Posted by | employment, renewable | Leave a comment

The economic pain of nuclear power station closures

Nuclear Plant Closures Bring Economic Pain to Cities and Towns, Pew, STATELINE ARTICLE, September 5, 2018, By: Martha T. Moore  “…….. Aging nuclear power plants are closing, doomed by the high cost of refurbishing them and the low price of natural gas. That is causing fiscal pain for municipalities that rely on revenue from the plants, and creating political pressure for state subsidies to forestall further shutdowns……….

Six reactors have shut down in the past five years, and eight more reactors are scheduled to close by 2025 at plants in California, Iowa, Massachusetts and Michigan. Nuclear power operators have said they will close a further five reactors at four plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania if those states don’t offer subsidies.

The closure of Indian Point, announced in January 2017, capped decades of controversy over its safety, and was a victory for environmental groups and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had long opposed the plant.

But the closure presents the local Hendrick-Hudson school district, where 2,500 children practice evacuation drills annually and nurses have iodide pills on hand in case of a radiation leak, with a budget crisis. About one-third of the district’s annual $79 million budget comes from Indian Point’s payment in lieu of taxes. By 2024, three years after the power plant huts, the yearly payments will have dwindled from $25 million to $1.35 million. ……..

Many nuclear power plants have curried public favor by being good corporate citizens. In Londonderry, for example, Three Mile Island runs a golf tournament for the local fire department that raises enough money to cover the $50,000 annual mortgage payment on the firehouse.

Redevelopment of Three Mile Island isn’t an option, Letavic said, because of the nuclear waste that will remain on the site, which is in the middle of the Susquehanna River……

In Lacey Township on the New Jersey shore, the nation’s oldest operating nuclear plant, Oyster Creek, will shut down in September after 49 years. The town gets $11 million in annual taxes from Oyster Creek and has identified itself so closely with the nuclear plant that its municipal seal bears the symbol of an atom as well as a sailboat and a pheasant. …….

Asking for State Help

Four states have moved to shore up nuclear power plants financially despite opposition from some environmental groups, consumer advocates and the coal and natural gas power industries.

In 2016, New York passed a $7.6 billion package to help three upstate nuclear power plants — though not Indian Point. And Illinois passed legislation directing $2.4 billion to two plants in the state through “zero emissions credits” 

…..In New Jersey, where 40 percent of the state’s electricity comes from nuclear plants, the state will subsidize two plants at a rate of $300 million a year under a bill enacted in May. (Oyster Creek was not included in the subsidy plan.) Connecticut enacted legislation last October that could allow its sole nuclear plant, the Millstone reactor in Waterford, to sell electricity at higher prices if Dominion Energy, its owner, can show the reactor is financially strapped. ………

As part of the nuclear subsidy packages, some states have increased requirements for obtaining power from renewable sources: New York and New Jersey will require half of their power to come from renewables by 2030, and Connecticut will require 40 percent by that date. Illinois will require a quarter of its power to come from renewables by 2025.https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/09/05/nuclear-plant-closures-bring-economic-pain-to-cities-and-towns

September 6, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, employment, USA | Leave a comment

The heat stroke threat affecting Fukushima nuclear clean-up workers

Leaving no stone unturned in heatstroke battle at nuclear plant http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201808180033.htmlBy HIROSHI ISHIZUKA/ Staff Writer  , 18 Aug 18  OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–How to avert a heatstroke is more pressing than usual in Japan this summer as the archipelago bakes in a record heat wave.

It’s not just sun-worshipers, children, the elderly and the infirm who should worry.

Spare a thought for the 5,000 or so workers who toil at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to get it ready for decommissioning.

They have to work outside in protective gear, with limited access to water and other resources.

At 5 a.m. on Aug. 6, a manager reminded a 20-strong group from IHI Plant Construction Co., which was contracted by Tokyo Electric Power Co., of the importance of adhering strictly to work rules.

“Please limit your efforts to shifts of less than 90 minutes,” the manager told the assembled workers in a lounge at the plant as he checked the complexion of each individual to gauge their health condition.

The workers are installing storage tanks for radioactive water that is accumulating at the plant.

They are not permitted to take food and beverages with them because of the risk of internal radiation exposure if the perishables are contaminated while they are working.

Water stations have been set up, but workers generally don’t bother to quench their thirst as it means they have to change out of their work gear to reach the sites.

During the morning meeting, the manager also checked each worker’s alcohol level and made sure that everybody had water from oral rehydration solution. After that, workers put a cold insulator in their vests and headed to the work site.

The Fukushima plant complex has about 900 tanks set up. IHI Plant Construction installed about 20 percent of them.

The workers’ primary responsibility in recent weeks is to inspect the condition of covers put in place to stop rainwater from accumulating around the tanks.

The workers are spared from the scorching sun as they work under cover, but coping with 90 to 95 percent humidity is a formidable challenge.

Junichi Ono, the head of the IHI Plant Construction’s task force assigned to the plant, said his company has tried to take every precaution against heatstroke.

“We need to pay attention because we work in a humid environment,” he said. “If a worker falls sick, we will lose valuable time taking that person to the doctor.”

According to TEPCO, 23 workers suffered heatstroke in the summer of 2011, shortly after the nuclear crisis unfolded at the plant.

Learning a lesson from that, workers were later instructed to start their tasks early in the morning and not work outdoors in principle between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. in July and August, the hottest part of the day.

The “summer time” schedule appears to be paying off.

In fiscal 2014, the number of workers afflicted with heatstroke at the plant stood at 15.

It dropped to four in fiscal 2016, but went back up to six in fiscal 2017 despite it being a relatively cool summer that year.

Although this year’s heat wave is unprecedented, only four workers have suffered heatstroke at the plant this summer.

The Japan Meteorological Agency forecast blistering summer heat in the coming week after a respite this weekend.

August 20, 2018 Posted by | climate change, employment, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Call to UN Human Rights Council to promote protection for workers from exposure to toxic substances,

In September, one of the UN experts, Baskut Tuncak, will present a report to the UN Human Rights Council, calling on States and employers to strengthen protection for workers from exposure to toxic substances, and proposing principles in that regard.  The UN experts: Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Ms. Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences,and Mr. Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health …

Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity…” https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23458&LangID=Ehttps://nuclear-news.net/2018/08/17/japan-fukushima-clean-up-workers-including-homeless-at-grave-ris… […]

August 20, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, employment | Leave a comment

U.S. Dept of Labor looks for nuclear workers eligible for compensation for radiation-caused illnesses

Government seeking nuclear workers who had radiation-caused cancers or their survivors https://triblive.com/local/valleynewsdispatch/13940878-74/government-seeking-nuclear-workers-who-had-radiation-caused-cancers-or-their-survivors,   | SundayAug. 5, 2018 

A federal program that has paid out more than $60 million to former Apollo area nuclear workers for radiation-related illnesses is looking for more former nuclear workers throughout the region who might be eligible for compensation.

The U.S. Department of Labor will hold an information meeting for former workers in the nuclear materials industry or their survivors on Aug. 22 from 9 a.m. noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Quality Inn in New Kensington.

There are about 14 work sites eligible in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including some steel mills and nuclear fuel processing plants.

Among them are the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) in Apollo and Parks Township, Westinghouse Atomic Power Development Plant in East Pittsburgh, Westinghouse Nuclear Fuels Division in Cheswick, and Aluminum Co. of America — Alcoa — in New Kensington.

The benefits proved helpful to deceased workers’ families to shore up medical expenses and the financial losses.

But it still doesn’t make up for the loss of a loved one.

“It just seems trivial — $150,000 for someone’s life, but it did help my mom out,” said Shellie Robertson, 57, Washington Township, whose father, John Grazetti, died in 2015 at the age of 74 from acute myeloid leukemia.

Grazetti, of Washington Township, was a NUMEC worker as was his father, John Grazetti Sr., who died of colon cancer and a brother who has recently been diagnosed with rectal cancer, according to Robertson.

All three men had cancers associated with exposures to radioactive substances encountered at work, and the compensation claims to the Labor Department by the three men have been accepted.

“My dad said he would probably die of cancer,” Robertson said. “He knew.”

Grazetti, who worked at NUMEC for about 20 years, didn’t talk much about his job, according to his daughter.

All the family knew what that he was foreman and worked with chemicals. However, Robertson did recall her father having to submit urine samples for the company to test for what is now known as radiation over-exposures.

Near the end of his life, Robertson started to hear NUMEC stories when her dad and uncle would talk.

“They would have to clean up stuff, spray down the walls. I remember the soles of my father’s shoes being eaten away from the stuff he was walking in.”

Paid out so far: $15 billion

To date, the program has paid more than $129.3 million in compensation and medical benefits to 1,138 claimants living in Pennsylvania and more than $15.2 billion nationwide, according to the Labor Department.

The government established the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act (EEOICPA) in 2000 to pay sick nuclear workers a lump sum of $150,000 and coverage of related medical expenses.

The program pays people who became ill because of working for a private business subcontracted by the federal government to develop and produce components for nuclear weapons.

Generally, eligible workers must have worked a certain amount of time and developed one of 22 cancers designated by the program and or other illnesses. The benefit also is payable to families of deceased workers.

The Labor Department has visited the area before and is visiting again because there still might be workers or their families still eligible for the benefit.

In Pennsylvania, most of the nuclear workers covered by the program were employed in the 1960s and 1970s.

It’s difficult to say how many more workers could be eligible for the program, but they could number in the hundreds, according to estimates provided by an EEOICPA program official several years ago.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

August 6, 2018 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

Renewable Energy Now Employs 10.3 Million People Globally

 https://e360.yale.edu/digest/renewable-energy-now-employs-10-3-million-people-globally   10 May 18The renewable energy industry employs 10.3 million people worldwide, according to new data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). And the sector is growing rapidly, adding more than 500,000 jobs last year alone, an increase of 5.3 percent from 2016, PV Magazine reported.

The solar industry accounts for the largest share of jobs in renewable energy, with nearly 3.4 million people employed in research, production, installation and maintenance of solar panels — an increase of 9 percent from 2016. The solar sector is followed by liquid biofuels, with 1.9 million jobs, and hydropower, with 1.5 million. The IRENA report finds that employment in the global wind industry decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017, shrinking to 1.15 million. China is home to 65 percent of the world’s solar jobs, and 43 percent of all renewable energy jobs. Due to the region’s robust manufacturing sector, four-fifths of all renewable energy jobs are located in Asia.

“The data underscores an increasingly regionalized picture, highlighting that in countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident,” said Adnan Z. Amin, director general of IRENA.

May 11, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, employment, renewable | Leave a comment

UK: Many cops guarding nuclear weapons found to be unfit

Daily Record 30th April 2018 , Dozens of elite gun cops tasked with protecting Britain’s nuclear weapons
at Faslane and other military sites are too unfit to carry firearms, it
emerged yesterday. A shocking report into the Ministry of Defence Police
reveals “concern” at the growing number who have been sidelined. The
crisis has emerged after tougher fitness tests equal to those taken by
other armed officers were introduced. Some MoD police – whose jobs include
guarding the nuclear submarine fleet at Faslane, SAS headquarters in
Hereford and GCHQ’s Cheltenham base – have failed the new tests. Others
have simply refused to take part, the Mail on Sunday reported.
https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/gun-cops-faslane-too-unfit-12451711

May 2, 2018 Posted by | employment, UK | Leave a comment

America’s mounting piles of plutonium cores – to be removed, perilously, by contract workers

Reuters 20th April 2018 , In a sprawling plant near Amarillo, Texas, rows of workers perform by hand
one of the most dangerous jobs in American industry. Contract workers at
the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pantex facility gingerly remove the
plutonium cores from retired nuclear warheads. Although many safety rules
are in place, a slip of the hand could mean disaster.

In Energy Department facilities around the country, there are 54 metric tons of surplus
plutonium. Pantex, the plant near Amarillo, holds so much plutonium that it
has exceeded the 20,000 cores, called “pits,” regulations allow it to
hold in its temporary storage facility. There are enough cores there to
cause thousands of megatons of nuclear explosions. More are added each day.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nukes-plutonium-specialreport/americas-nuclear-headache-old-plutonium-with-nowhere-to-go-idUSKBN1HR1KC

April 22, 2018 Posted by | - plutonium, employment, USA | Leave a comment

Washington State to give more help to sick Hanford nuclear workers and former workers

Help on the way for ill Hanford workers  Tri City Herald,  March 07, 2018 

March 9, 2018 Posted by | employment, health, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Progress in getting compensation for sick Hanford nuclear workers and ex-workers

Hanford atomic workers get state legislative boost for workers’ comp  http://www.peoplesworld.org/article/hanford-atomic-workers-get-state-legislative-boost-for-workers-comp/   February 9, 2018 CST  BY MARK GRUENBERG  HANFORD, Wash.—This is a good-news story. It involves a persistent union legislative director, a favorable election outcome, and bipartisan and cross-chamber cooperation in the Washington State legislature.

And the beneficiaries are and will be hundreds, if not thousands, of workers exposed to some of the most dangerous materials known to humans.

The workers are present workers and retirees, at the Department of Energy’s nuclear complex in Hanford, Wash. And as a result of all those factors, they’ll be more eligible for workers’ comp.

The story starts in 1942-43, says Nick Bumpaous of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 598, located near the complex. That’s when the U.S. War Department took over the Hanford area to build the factory complex to make nuclear warheads for U.S. bombs. Hanford, like the whole Manhattan Project for developing atomic weapons, was top secret.

The feds, to their credit, realized Hanford’s workers would be in constant daily contact with uranium, plutonium and other highly radioactive materials. Who knew what would happen to them in later years due to those exposures?

“In the 1940s, the War Department got into a contract with the state legislature to have workers use Washington’s industrial insurance for workers’ comp claims if they got ill from handling the radioactive material,” Bumpaous said in a phone interview. “The feds would reimburse the state for any claims.”

The catch was when sickened workers went to their doctors, the doctors “couldn’t tell what the illnesses were” – because Hanford was secret – “so they couldn’t give you medication,” much less OK workers’ comp claims.

Common diseases among the Hanford workers include various cancers, according to a fact sheet for a later federal workers comp program for federal nuclear workers nationwide. The Steelworkers, who now represent many of those nuke workers, lobbied for and won the federal program. It began in 2001, with a second part added in 2004. But it caps lifetime benefits at $250,000, plus medical expenses.

“But you still put the burden of proof” upon the worker to show his or her toil at Hanford and exposure to the fissile materials there caused those ills, not to mention exposure to other threats, Bumpaous says.

One example: Exposure to diethyl mercury, “a silent odorless, colorless, tasteless stuff that induces neurological diseases and dementia.” In addition, “you have a whole generation of people with reactive airway disease,” he adds.

The doctors couldn’t diagnose the reasons for Hanford ills. The workers became so ill they couldn’t work and had to leave their jobs, “so they’re not getting a paycheck and they had no health insurance.” They had to navigate the bureaucracy “and their claims were denied,” Bumpaous explains. Workers’ comp denials at Hanford were 52 percent above average.

“It’s hard enough to take care of yourself when you’re battling the Department of Energy,” which now runs Hanford “and the state Department of Labor and Industry,” which runs workers’ comp, Bumpaous says.

With the burden of proof on the workers, Bumpaous got into the picture. Two years ago, he read about legislation the Fire Fighters successfully pushed elsewhere, shifting the burden of proof for certain diseases – known to be caused by Fire Fighter exposure to asbestos and other dangers on the job – from the worker to the state.

In short, if a Fire Fighter goes to the doctor with asbestosis, the doctor must presume the worker caught it from on-the-job exposure and is eligible for workers’ comp. Bumpaous wanted to create the same scenario for the Hanford workers. Workers and retirees still must go to the doctors, though.

“These brave workers continue to be exposed to some of the most hazardous substances known to man, including many chemical and radiological hazards as yet unidentified, and the safety measures intended to protect them are inadequate,” wrote David Groves in The Stand, the Washington State Labor Council’s online newspaper, which first reported the legislation.

But the Hanford workers couldn’t get workers comp because they had to “connect specific exposures to their disease — a virtually impossible task given the” top secret “circumstances at Hanford.”

Bumpaous enlisted two lawmakers to push the measure shifting the burden of proof from the workers to the state: State Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, and State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, a longtime pro-worker advocate, who is now state Senate President Pro Tem and chair of the state Senate’s Labor Committee. Haler’s district includes Hanford.

And that’s where the political switch comes in. When Bumpaous, Haler and Keiser first tried to get their bill, HB1723, through, it passed the House, then died in the Senate, which the GOP controlled by one vote. Republican leaders wouldn’t even let it get out of committee.

But earlier this year, Manka Dhingra, a Democratic pro-worker woman with strong union backing, won a special election for an open State Senate seat. Control switched, Keiser took over – and the legislation for the Hanford workers sailed through: 76-22 in the House and 35-14 in the Senate.

“It’s important we take care of workers who suffered due to being exposed to harmful chemicals and processes at Hanford,” Haler said. “Despite all the safety precautions, families and individuals have been devastated by illness and disease. They need help. This will help make that easier,” Haler said after HB1723 headed for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

“Exposure to heavy metal and radiation has ruined people’s lives,” Keiser told the Senate before passage.

“I cannot think of a more suitable assertion for this Senate to make than putting our partisan differences aside to put people first. We are seeing people dying from dementia, cancer and lung disease who were systematically left out of workers compensation.”

“People went bankrupt paying for cancer treatments. This ordeal has been going on since the 1990s. We have seen a whole generation impacted by this tragedy. That is not right. Our Washington community cares about protecting all workers.”

Inslee is expected to sign the bill. But that’s not the end of the story for Bumpaous. “I want to see everyone get these benefits” nationwide if they worked in nuclear weapons and warhead production, he says. “That way we won’t have this type of stuff in the future.”

 

February 10, 2018 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

The dangerous job of specialist scuba divers hauling radioactive trash out of Sizewell nuclear fuel storage pond

NDA 1st Feb 2018, Specialist scuba divers are plumbing new depths to haul radioactive waste
out of the nuclear fuel storage pond at Sizewell A. The team of American
underwater experts tackled their first UK ‘nuclear dive’ at Dungeness A
in 2016 where, wearing full protective suits and shielded from radiation by
the water, they were able to cut up empty fuel storage skips and retrieve
other pieces of submerged equipment.

The ponds were used to store thousands
of used nuclear fuel rods, held in metal skips, after they were discharged
from the reactors. After the last of the fuel was transported to Sellafield
for reprocessing, the skips and a range of redundant items, including
sludge, were left behind in the water.

Pond clean-out conventionally takes
place using remotely operated equipment to lift the whole radioactive skips
clear of the water, exposing them to the air, where they are carefully cut
up before decontamination, storage and eventual disposal. This process is
slow with potential radiation dose risks for workers. By doing the work
under water, the divers can cut up the skips more safely, access awkward
areas more easily, making the whole process safer, faster and more
productive.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/diving-into-innovation-at-sizewell

February 3, 2018 Posted by | employment, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Trump tax bill promotes polluting robots – and damages clean energy workers

Polluting robots win big, clean energy workers get screwed in Trump tax bill http://reneweconomy.com.au/polluting-robots-win-big-clean-energy-workers-get-screwed-trump-tax-bill-37122/ By Joe Romm on 7 December 2017

Think Progress  Polluting robots of the world, unite! The GOP tax bill is for you.

The rest of us, however, have a lot to lose from GOP tax changes that favor investments in dirty energy over clean — and robots over human workers.

As one MIT economist told Newsweek, “We are creating huge subsidies in our tax code for capital and encouraging employers to use machines instead of labor.” And unless significant changes are made in the GOP plan, those machines will be running on dirty energy.

 Last month, I discussed how the House tax bill targets key solar and wind energy tax credits that have helped make clean energy a crucial high-wage job-creating sector in the United States.

The good news is that the Senate tax bill doesn’t roll back those renewable energy tax credits.

The bad news is that it contains language that could seriously undermine the investment in renewables by imposing “a new 100 percent tax” on those credits, as Gregory Wetstone, head of the American Council on Renewable Energy, explained in a statement.

“If this bill passes as drafted, major financial institutions would no longer participate in tax equity financing, which is the principal mechanism for monetizing credits,” Wetstone pointed out.

“Almost overnight, you would see a devastating reduction in wind and solar energy investment and development.” Meanwhile, tax subsidies for fossil fuels, many of which are decades old, would continue unchanged–and the Senate bill opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

This type of clean energy financing will reach $12 billion this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which examined the impact of this change in detail.

This investment, much of it by multinational finance companies, has helped leveraged some $50 billion a year in U.S. wind and solar projects, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Ironically — or, rather, tragically — harming renewables mostly harms red states. As “The American Prospect” noted, “The states that voted for Trump produce nearly 70 percent of wind energy, while 85 percent of existing wind projects are in GOP-held congressional districts.”

As for longer-term impacts, the GOP plan would cut billions of dollars in incentives for  the biggest new source of sustainable high-wage employment in the world — clean energy — just as China and the rest of the world are making massive investments.

What’s unknown at this point is how these and other changes to these tax credits will be dealt with in the final bill, after the House and Senate work out their differences. While the House plan to gut the credits was intentional, it’s not clear that Senators intended to undermine them, so the problem is fixable.

 One thing that was very intentional was the “full and immediate expensing of equipment purchases” provision. This would let companies deduct from their taxes the full cost of some types of investments, such as new industrial equipment, that are currently only allowed a 50 percent deduction.

This change would occur just when companies are beginning to automate their factories using robots and advanced computing technology, as corporate tax attorney Robert Kovacev, explained to Huffington Post: “It’s going to accelerate spending, basically, on robots that could displace workers.”

The GOP plan naturally has no tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire more actual workers or to retrain those who lose their job due to automation

Indeed, the Senate bill is so bad that Bloomberg’s editors wrote a piece explaining “Republicans have managed to make a terrible plan worse.” As one example the equipment-expensing provision would take effect immediately, but the Senate only lowers the corporate tax rate to 20 percent (from 35) in 2019.

“This will allow businesses to take deductions on investments while rates are high, then pay a lower rate on the resulting income, creating a perverse incentive to pursue otherwise unprofitable projects,” explains Bloomberg.

So the Senate bill actually encourages companies to replace workers even with unprofitable robots.

Unprofitable polluting robots — quite a legacy for the disastrous GOP tax plan.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | employment, technology, USA | Leave a comment