Aug 4, 2007

Mound Plant workers' cases can be judged without documents

Nuclear plant records were contaminated with radiation, buried in underground shafts.
By Tom Beyerlein
Staff Writer, Dayton Daily News
Sunday, August 05, 2007

Officials in charge of deciding whether cancer-stricken atomic workers qualify for federal compensation say they can accurately judge the cases of former Mound Plant workers without the unearthing of old Mound records buried in a radioactive waste landfill in New Mexico.

But Mound worker health advocate Paige Gibson said nobody knows the contents of the records, so it's "ludicrous" to say they couldn't be useful in determining whether worker cancers were caused by on-the-job exposures to radiation.

Staffers at the Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2005 buried in underground shafts more than 400 shrink-wrapped cardboard boxes, six 55-gallon drums and 11 safes containing classified records from Miamisburg's Mound nuclear weapons plant. The records were contaminated with radioactivity at Mound.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said earlier this year that the records could be critical to conducting accurate "dose reconstructions," a paperwork method of estimating worker exposures to harmful radiation. If a reconstruction shows at least a 50 percent probability that a worker's cancer was caused by occupational exposures, the worker qualifies for cash and medical benefits.

A federal contractor charged with quantifying past Mound hazards for the compensation program went to Los Alamos last year to view the records, only to learn they'd been buried. The records include logbooks, safety analysis reports, Mound studies of the properties of toxic metals used there, and descriptions of a 1989 release of radioactive tritium.

"At this point, NIOSH believes that we have all the records that we need to accurately reconstruct doses for the workers who would be impacted by the Mound buried-records issue," NIOSH spokeswoman Amanda Harney of Cincinnati said last week.

The Energy Department searched its archives for additional Mound records and interviewed two former workers familiar with the content of the buried records, said spokeswoman Megan Barnett in Washington. She said "there's a good deal of confidence" the buried records aren't critical to the compensation process.

Of 1,287 claims filed by former Mound workers with the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, only 179 have been paid. NIOSH has ruled against Mound workers with dose reconstructions more than two-thirds of the time.

Gibson, a retired Mound worker who heads a union-sponsored health-screening program, said she thinks the buried records could be important, but she hates to see the government spend the estimated $9 million and 18 months to exhume them and make decontaminated copies. "I'm advocating they use that money to help the sick workers instead of fighting the sick workers."

She fears the buried records are ruined by exposure to the elements anyway. "They weren't meant to be protected," she said, "they were meant to be destroyed."

Mound workers plan to apply for special status that would exempt them from the dose reconstruction process and automatically trigger benefits for workers with certain cancers.

'It's a hornet's nest'

Russ Adams of Centerville was a Mound security analyst from 1985-96, and was approved for compensation in July 2006, five years after he applied. He has had 76 skin cancers surgically removed, including almost 30 in the last year.

His duties included handling the contaminated records now buried at Los Alamos, and "in my opinion, I had as much chance of getting (cancer) from the documents as anywhere else. I was at the plant."

Adams believes the government doesn't want to retrieve the buried records because they would bolster workers' cases, thus forcing the feds to pay more claims.

"It's a hornet's nest," he said. "There's a world of information in those documents. They don't want them dug up."


Anonymous said...

This is about the stupidist thing I've ever heard. Why aren't those morons who manage these facilities in jail? No, instead they get promoted and eventually land up working at Los Alamos in charge of similar messes. Contaminating the records that are supposed to document how much contaminants workers have been exposed to? Unbelievable! Then they bury those records (in Los Alamos of course) so that workers now can't learn the full extent of their exposure to contaminants? And nobody is held accountable for any of this? What a wonderful Country we live in...NOT!

Anonymous said...

I understand that the LANS executive team's salary list is also buried deep down in this very same radioactive hole.

As is Mitchell's laptop.

As is the report of a "human error" security incident that recently occured.

As are the financial records for LANL's TCP1 assets.

As is... well, you get the point. It's a very convenient hole for making problems dissapear.

Anonymous said...

Secrecy and little peer revue have their advantages. The public knows little of the bases of performance and the public cannot criticize high salaries without knowing what people are paid for. Job security was improved in a laboratory with a sorry history of scientific productivity after the Manhattan project. (Look at the patent licensing income compared to any other lab.)The drawback is that organizations operating in secrecy tend to degenerate and become corrupt rather rapidly. I knew a relative of a comptroller of the lab and, at one time, the books weren't balanced. When I was employed as a LANL scientist, your division leader could rape your budget without any consequences. I still hear sad stories of budget manipulation and, most recently, of scientists writing off their FTE costs on simple tasks concealed by secrecy.
If you don't like this corrupt management, you can give your names and make a public complaint. If you are happy with your salaries don't give your names. The situation is clear: lots of people are making handsome salaries for work that need not be secret but would not be allowed to continue if subject to public scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

Let's get back to the original news article. NIOSH is saying they can reconstruct dose with reasonable accuracy, for the Mound employees with cancer, while acknowledging that records are missing (buried). I believe a few months ago, when this issue was first publicized, NIOSH stated that those records would be valuable in their evaluation of the Special Exposure Cohort petition.

But now, they are not? Did they find copies of those buried records? If not, then they cannot reconstruct dose and still obey the law. What changed?

I agree with 9:24. So far, no one has been held accountable for the lies and the waste and the delays which the sick workers are subjected to.

Anonymous said...

This entire thread begs for some reality. How did the records get contaminated? I guess we don't know since no information has been made public. Perhaps it is because they were paper generated inside radiological areas and became contaminated as did everything else that wasn't protected as workers were (see for example TA-55). In any case, it wasn't at LANL - get it, you LANL bashers??!!.

2:34 pm seems to think he has knowledge, but none of his "knowledge" has anything to do with Mound, the source of the story! (and the documents). He won't actually take the time to look up what Mound did for the nuclear weapons complex and for our country. Rather he decries "secrecy" as if he believes the designs of nuclear weapons should be published! He indicates that the most justifiable reason to blab secrets is if you are unsatisfied with your salary!!

Tell us what "secrets" you would reveal (and why don't you, if you know any?). If you don't like your salary, then go work for the employer who is willing to pay you more!! What!! - THERE ISN'T ANY SUCH EMPLOYER?? Well, shucky darn.

Anonymous said...

8/5 9:24 pm:

"Contaminating the records that are supposed to document how much contaminants workers have been exposed to? Unbelievable!"

In the words of Archie Bunker, "you're not particularly bright, are you?" Do you claim that the records were intentionally contaminated by someone? Of course not, your knowledge is way below even that level of understanding. Do you have any undertstanding of the level of contamination, or why CLASSIFIED records that are contaminated may have to be buried to comply with DOE requirememts for protection of classified matter without jeopardizing the health of countless security guards? Get a grip and understand the managment of LANL must choose the least expensive and least hazardous route for such material, that still complies with DOE directives. How would you have proceeded when presented with that volume of contaminated classified waste? Give us the benefit of your wisdom and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Were the records classified or "For Official Use Only"? You sound like the guy who buried the records, and you sound like you knew what you were burying. Wanna step forward and take credit?

Anonymous said...

Anonymously, just for posterity, do you want to admit you knew what you were doing?

Mean Jean said...

My dad worked at Miamisburg Mound project-He died of cancer 4 years ago. a slow miserable death