A Cruel Legacy


Have you or a loved one become a cancer victim as a result of working at Texas Instruments | Metals & Controls in Attleboro, Massachusetts? Let us help insure you receive the entire compensation that you are entitled to. If you or a loved one worked at the Attleboro site at any time from 1950 to 1967 contact us today for a free consultation.

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Visit our website at www.ticancervictim.com and contact our Attleboro, Massachusetts office today at 508-499-3366.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Spreading the word on TI fund


Spreading the word on TI fund

Law clerk's article details father's illness

PAWTUCKET - Lou Wims worked for years at the Metals and Controls division of Texas Instruments Inc. in Attleboro, rising from a plumber's helper to a facilities manager responsible for maintaining the local plant.
When he died from lung cancer in 1998, his family had no reason to suspect his cancer might have stemmed from his employment at the plant, which manufactured fuel for nuclear reactors.
Now his daughter, Jenna Wims Hashway, 49, is using her legal background to spread the word to lawyers, cancer victims and their families that help is available.
As a judicial law clerk to Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, the Pawtucket resident cannot perform legal work on behalf of clients. But recently Wims penned a detailed article for the Rhode Island Bar Journal about her father's and other nuclear workers' cases explaining how to access a federal program designed to help defense workers afflicted with cancer.
The Attleboro plant manufactured nuclear fuel for the Navy from 1952 to 1967 and continued fabricating nuclear fuel for government research reactors until 1981. The TI complex later underwent a massive environmental cleanup and was converted into an industrial park.
Former TI workers who contracted certain types of cancer and meet other criteria can qualify for compensation and medical payments under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.
However, few workers knew about the program until The Sun Chronicle began publishing stories about the former nuclear site and U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Brookline, raised questions about the company's response.
According to the U.S. Labor Department, which administers the program, at least 400 claims from former TI workers have been approved with payments totaling more than $35 million.
Hashway said neither she nor any members of her family suspected that her father's cancer might be work-connected until they received a letter from Texas Instruments Inc. in February alerting families to the availability of a federal program to aid former atomic workers with cancer.
"I don't think it had occurred to any of us that his employment had put him at risk," Hashway said. "In fact, until the letter arrived from TI and I did some independent research, I had no idea TI worked with nuclear fuel. I thought they made watches and calculators."
Hashway's article explains the working of the federal program set up to compensate defense workers who toiled at dangerous jobs, often without adequate knowledge, on vital Cold War-era weapons projects. The federal law offers compensation up to $150,000 to employees of government contractors, whose illnesses are as likely as not caused by exposure to radiation.
In 2010, the federal government designated the Attleboro plant as a "special exposure cohort" for anyone who worked at the location at least 250 days between 1952 and 1967, making it easier for those workers to obtain compensation.
Hashway and her siblings applied for and obtained approval on a claim they filed on behalf of their late father.
Cancer victims and their families do not need to hire a lawyer to apply for compensation or medical benefits. But Hashway said some families may choose to seek legal advice and guidance from a lawyer. She said she wrote the article to put information about the program into the hands of families and their attorneys.
"My hope is that everyone who qualifies for the fund is made aware of its existence, so that they can decide whether to pursue a claim," she said. "The process is pretty straightforward, but it can be complicated by the passage of time - medical records and other documentation may no longer exist. I hope local attorneys will assist those who may need help in submitting a claim, and I hope my article will provide a useful guide to the process."
Former workers and their families can apply for benefits by contacting the Department of Labor's New York Resource Office.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Compensating Life Downwind of Nevada





Priscilla, a 37-kiloton atom bomb, was detonated June 24, 1957, at the Nevada Test Site. It was one of a hundred atomic bombs detonated at the site, exposing communities across the United States to radioactive fallout. 


Compensating Life Downwind of Nevada 

By Miki Meek

Claudia Peterson has a vivid memory from her 1950s childhood in southern Utah. She remembers watching a glowing orange ball move off the western horizon while she rocked back and forth in her swing set the summer she was four, and walking past piles of dead lambs during lambing season. Some had two heads, and others had no legs.

Peterson remembers men in tidy, black suits visiting her classroom at East Elementary School in Cedar City with Geiger counters—and feeling a sense of pride that she lit up the counter when they waved it in front of her face. They told her it was from dental x-rays, but she knew she had never had one. She recalls sixth grade when one of her schoolmates died of leukemia, and eighth grade when bone cancer took first her friend's leg and then his life.
But there's one thing that doesn't come to mind—the government ever warning communities like hers in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and much of the United States that they would be heavily exposed to radioactive fallout from atomic bombs detonated at the Nevada Test Site. Between 1951 and July 1962, a hundred atomic bombs were detonated above ground there, 23 of them were larger than the one dropped on Hiroshima.
And nobody told Peterson that the government would one day compensate her family for her father's death from brain cancer, but wouldn't extend that same apology to her sister and her own six-year-old daughter. They didn't get the "right" cancer. Neither melanoma nor neuroblastoma, a rare nervous-system cancer, made the government's list.
After years of failed lawsuits and legislation, the government finally offered compensation to downwinders—radiation victims downwind of the test site—with the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). However, since Congress passed the act, in 1990, it has been hotly criticized by those living in states surrounding the site for limiting compensation to certain illnesses, years, and counties. For claimants to pick up their $50,000 compensation check, which barely covers medical bills for some, they must have been physically present in areas around the test site for at least two years between 1951 and 1958, or during 1962. They must also have one of 20 eligible diseases, which are mostly cancers of primary organs.
"It's a slap in the face to think that money will bring back a loved one or a breast after being treated like a guinea pig. But it's a bigger slap in the face to the brother, cousin, or neighbor across the street whose illness didn't qualify," Peterson says.
Dennis Nelson, director of Support and Education for Radiation Victims, has helped downwinders file their RECA claims with the Department of Justice for the past ten years and has seen it become a point of frustration for many families, including his own. Born and raised in St. George, Utah, Nelson was seven when atomic bombs with names like "Charlie" and "Baker" began exploding less than 120 miles from his home. But with safe assurances from the Atomic Energy Commission, his family thought they were unaffected.
They continued to eat vegetables from a garden irrigated with water polluted from fallout dust and drink fresh milk from the farmer up the street. They were unaware that scientists would eventually show that radioactive iodine 131 often entered the food chain through milk from cows that ate contaminated grass or feed, and increased the risk of thyroid cancer.
The Nelsons' health eventually began to unravel. In a family of seven, seven different kinds of cancers were diagnosed, including colon cancer, which claimed his sister Margaret two years after RECA was passed. But it wasn't on the list of compensable diseases at the time. And when Congress did amend the list, adding six other diseases to RECA in 2000, the Department of Justice still had nothing to offer Nelson but a rejection letter. He is ineligible because the law permits only parents, spouses, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and survivors to file. Nelsons' mother died of a brain tumor and his father of lung cancer before his sister, who never married or had children.
"RECA is too little, too late," Nelson says. "They can call it compensation, but people are dying before they can even get it."
Salt Lake City resident Mary Dickson did not die after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but she still won't get compensated. Although it's an eligible cancer, Salt Lake County isn't among 21 qualifying counties in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, even though fallout hit it harder than some counties within RECA's boundaries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"I'm glad that some type of legislation passed, but RECA was still a huge compromise," Dickson says. "The fallout didn't just hit a confined geographic area around southern Utah and stop. You can't put a fence around it."
The first federal reports mapping fallout paths over Salt Lake did not emerge until seven years after RECA passed. However, when the number of eligible counties was increased slightly by the amendments in 2000, Salt Lake County was not added.
Fred Allingham, executive director of the National Association for Radiation Survivors, believes it's because these reports also showed that fallout drifted all over the United States, making room for congressional arguments that expanding the program further would be too costly. The year after the amendments were enacted, 3,828 claims flooded in, compared with 854 in 2000. These new claims quickly exhausted funds, and the Department of Justice issued IOU letters for several months until Congress appropriated more money.
Anyone who has lived in the contiguous United States since 1951 has been exposed to radiation, according to a CDC report. Fallout from the Nevada Test Site, combined with nuclear tests conducted overseas by the U.S. and other countries, could ultimately be responsible for an additional 17,000 cancer deaths. The National Cancer Institute also estimates that the Nevada Test Site alone may be responsible for up to 212,000 cases of thyroid cancer.
The Cold War-era nuclear bombs were only detonated at the test site when the wind was blowing north-northeast, away from major cities in California and toward sparsely populated regions in states like Utah, Montana, and Wyoming.
But fallout wasn't the Cold War's only hazard. Many Americans were left sick and dying of lung cancer and other diseases after working in poorly ventilated uranium mines, contaminated with high levels of radon gas and toxic dust. These miners are eligible for $100,000 under RECA if they have one of six lung diseases linked to radiation exposure and worked between 1942 and 1971 in one of 11 qualifying states.
However, some miners, particularly Navajo, are having difficulty supplying necessary documents, even though declassified reports show that the Atomic Energy Commission knowingly sent them into hazardous conditions. Since the beginning of 2002, Melton Martinez, director of Navajo RECA Reform Working Group, has helped 200 uranium miners file for compensation, but only nine have received it so far.
He says the act "culturally discriminates" against Navajo because it requires claimants to provide detailed medical and work history records that many just don't have. From the 1950s through the ‘70s, many did not utilize Western medicine nor did they receive pay stubs, because employers paid them under the table.
"The government never told us about radiation and now they are making us jump over these hurdles," Martinez says. "But that's hard for these miners to do when they're carrying an oxygen bottle, confined to a wheelchair, or taking 15 different pills a day to keep themselves going."
He also feels that the law is flawed because it doesn't compensate other populations that were exposed to uranium dust. Martinez's own family has been plagued with health problems from living near a uranium mine in Haystack, New Mexico, that remained open for 30 years.
The National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, is studying whether there is scientific evidence to support expanding illnesses, populations, and geographic regions in RECA, and the report is due on June 30, 2003. However, Claudia Peterson is skeptical that the government will take responsibility for her sister's and daughter's death anytime soon.
It took 39 years after "Able"—the first bomb to go off at the Nevada Test Site, in 1951— for the government to acknowledge some fault. And it took ten years after RECA passed to add amendments that included a few more counties, populations, and diseases. Peterson says she doesn't know how much longer some of her elementary school classmates, family, and friends will be around to wait.
"We've watched how quickly the government has put together compensation for 9/11 victims, and that has been a tough one to swallow," Peterson says. "What happened that day was horrible, but they are so quick to recognize what someone else did and shove under the rug what they've done to their own people. We were considered a low-use segment of the population then, and we still are now."
RELATED LINKSRadiation Exposure Compensation Program
www.usdoj.gov/civil/torts/const/reca/
Go to this site to learn about RECA and download claim forms.
National Cancer Institute: About Radiation Fallout
rex.nci.nih.gov/INTRFCE_GIFS/radiation_fallout/radiation_131.html
This website lists the full 1997 report on exposure to iodine 131 from atomic bombs detonated above ground at the Nevada Test Site, along with fact sheets, a dose calculator, and state and county exposures.
A Feasibility Study of the Health Consequences to the American Population From Nuclear Weapons Tests Conducted by the United States and Other Nations
www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/fallout/default.htm
Download the report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from this site.
National Association of Radiation Survivors
www.radiationsurvivors.org
This website offers a summary of issues and legislative history regarding radiation victims.
Nevada Test Site
www.nv.doe.gov/news&pubs/publications/historyreports/default.htm
Visit this site to read detailed, historical reports on nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site.
BIBLIOGRAPHYGallagher, Carole. American Ground Zero. MIT Press. 1993

Miller, Richard L. Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing. Two-Sixty Press. 1999.

Miller, Richard L. The U.S. Atlas of Nuclear Fallout From 1951-1962 Vol. I: Total Fallout. LEGIS Books, 2002.

Ward, Chip. Canaries on the Rim: Living Downwind in the West. Verso Books. 2001

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Iodine-131 Fallout From the Nevada Test Site



Iodine-131 Fallout From the Nevada Test Site


In 1997 the National Cancer Institute (NCI) released the first nationwide study on exposure to radioactive iodine 131 (I 131), from 100 atomic bombs tests detonated above ground at the Nevada Test Site during the 1950s and 1960s.
Rain, wind, and the food supply spread I 131 from these tests across the United States, with the largest deposits immediately downwind of the test site and the lowest on the West Coast, upwind of the site. Exposure to released iodine occurred mainly during the first two months following a test. After that I 131 disintegrated to harmless levels.
Because I 131 accumulates in the thyroid gland, the NCI estimates that the fallout may have caused up to 212,000 cases of thyroid cancer in people who were exposed. The average cumulative thyroid dose to approximately 160 million people who lived in the country during testing was about two rads, about five times the radiation dose emitted by a mammogram. A rad is the measurement unit for the amount of radiation the body absorbs. The federal government recommends medical monitoring for people who have been exposed to ten rads or more.
Americans were exposed to varying levels depending on their residence, age, and food consumption. People who lived in Western states to the north and east of the site, such as Colorado, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah, had the highest per capita thyroid doses, ranging from 9 to 16 rads. And children between three months to five years old in these high fallout areas probably received three to seven times the average dose for the population in their county because they had smaller thyroids and tended to drink more milk than adults.
Milk was a major exposure vehicle because I 131 fell on pasture grasses and then was consumed by cows. But an estimated 20,000 people who drank goats' milk during testing were at an even greater risk because it concentrates I 131 more than cows' milk. Thyroid doses to these individuals could be 10 to 20 times greater than to residents of the same county, who were the same age and gender, and drank an equal amount of cows' milk. Other pathways included inhaling contaminated air or ingesting tainted leafy vegetables, cottage cheese, and eggs.
However, the relationship between I 131 and thyroid cancer still isn't fully known. It makes up less than one percent of cancer cases nationwide each year and cancer registries do not indicate that fallout has caused an epidemic, although record keeping didn't start until the early 1970s.
— Miki Meek
 
© 2002 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cancer claims from Attleboro atomic work growing


Cancer claims from Attleboro atomic work growing




ATTLEBORO - Hundreds of former Metals & Controls and Texas Instruments employees who may have gotten cancer as a result of working at a nuclear fuel plant are pursing claims for compensation under a federal program.
More than 900 claims have been filed on behalf of ex-workers or survivors of those who worked at the Attleboro plant during the 1950s and '60s under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.
The Department of Labor-run program provides compensation and medical coverage to atomic workers who believe they developed cancer as a result of their jobs.
The total does not include another 252 cases referred to the National Institute of Occupational Science and Health under a separate category.
So far a total of $35 million has been disbursed to employees with one of 22 types of cancer who worked at the plant from 1952 to 1967. That includes $1.2 million in government-paid medical benefits.
An additional $3.7 million has been paid under the NIOSH program to those who worked at the plant in later years, but whose cancer was judged likely to be job-connected.
Many of the workers labored in close proximity to radioactive materials on Cold War military projects at a time it was feared conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union might erupt in nuclear war.
Some have compared the nuclear workers to the Rosie the Riveters of World War II, who kept ships, tanks and planes flowing to the front despite workplace hazards, housing shortages and little sleep.
Of compensation cases decided so far, about two-thirds of claims received from those who worked at the plant in the 1950s and '60s have been approved.
Under the parallel NIOSH program, which carries a higher standard of proof, only about 20 percent of those who filed claims were approved for compensation.
The former Metals & Controls plant manufactured nuclear fuel for the Navy and for government reactor programs beginning in the early 1950s and ending in 1981, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
About 90 percent of the compensation paid to date went to workers or family members of employees who worked in the 1950s and '60s, when atomic energy work was at its height.
A division of Engelhard Industries in Plainville conducted similar work during the 1950s and early '60s.
Texas Instruments, which purchased Metals & Controls in 1959, sold its Attleboro manufacturing campus in 2006.
The property, parts of which underwent extensive decontamination, was eventually turned into an industrial park.
As many as 6,000 people worked at the complex in its heyday.
The bulk of nuclear-related work was centered on a few buildings, but the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health was unable to find documentation confining the work to any one section of the factory comlex.
The Department of Labor classified the former TI property an "atomic weapons employer" site.
The federal government stepped up efforts to aid local atomic workers in 2010 by designating those who worked at the Attleboro plant from 1952 to 1967 a "special exposure cohort." The designation afforded them easier access to benefits without having to document precisely how much radiation exposure they received.
However, some former workers have complained that neither Texas Instruments nor the government adequately informed them they might be subject to work-related cancer or that there was a program available to help them.
Following a series of news stories in The Sun Chronicle and prompting by U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, the company sent letters to thousands of former workers informing them about the compensation program.
"My office is thrilled with the steady uptick in claims filed by former employees of Texas Instruments and their families," Kennedy said in a statement. "These workers deserve any compensation we can provide. We remain committed to working with any individual who needs help navigating the claims process and encourage folks to call our Attleboro office with any questions or concerns."
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Metals & Controls and later TI made nuclear fuels used by the Navy, Air Force and civilian government reactors, as well as switches for Navy submarines that contained radioactive radium 226.
TI cleaned up the property in 1997 and received sign-offs from federal and state officials.
But the number applications for federal compensation from former employees has continued to climb as a result of publicity and mailings.
In January, the Department of Labor reported it had approved 301 claims by former workers and paid out a total of $26.2 million in compensation related to the Attleboro site. Another $768,000 went to pay medical bills of affected workers.
According to the most recent statistics, a total of 407 claims have been approved, with payments totaling $34 million. That doesn't count an additional $1.2 million in medical care.
In addition the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health portion of the program, which had paid $3.4 million on 29 individual claims as of January, has seen those totals rise to $3.7 million on 31 claims.
Since surviving family members, as well as former workers, are permitted to file claims, the total number of claims reported by the Labor Department exceeds the number of former workers whose cases are connected with them.
According to statistics published by the Labor Department, the 1,198 claims submitted to date under both programs represent a total of 883 workers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Half Life—The Lethal Legacy of America's Nuclear Waste



A tank farm at Hanford, Washington, built in the 1940s, uses only single-wall tanks to store radioactive sludge from plutonium processing. Many of the tanks have leaked, tainting groundwater.

Photograph by Peter Essick

Half Life—The Lethal Legacy of America's Nuclear Waste





Written by Michael E. Long
Republished from the pages of National Geographic magazine
World War II was still being fought in the Pacific during the first week of August 1945, a time when my father and I were vacationing in Atlantic City, New Jersey, eating softshell crabs and lazing by the ocean. In a games arcade I fed nickels to a toy machine gun and fired at Japanese Zero fighters flitting across a screen. On the boardwalk, rifles shouldered, platoons of United States soldiers marched and sang:
The Stars and Stripes will fly over Tokyo,
Fly over Tokyo, fly over Tokyo,
The Stars and Stripes will fly over Tokyo,
When the 991st gets there̴.
One morning my dad showed me a newspaper with red headlines that said a huge bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and Japan surrendered. The bombs were so big that the boys of the 991st wouldn't have to go to Tokyo after all.
The strong nuclear force, the binding energy that makes atomic nuclei the most tightfisted entities in all creation, had been sundered, unleashing enormous power—the equivalent of 15,000 tons (13,608 metric tons) of TNT in the Hiroshima bomb—as well as a race to create bigger weapons. Seven years later our first hydrogen device, code-named Mike, yielded a blast equal to 10.4 million tons (9.4 million metric tons) of TNT. Mike would have leveled all five boroughs of New York City.
By the mid-1960s, the height of the Cold War, the U.S. had stockpiled around 32,000 nuclear warheads, as well as mountains of radioactive garbage from the production of plutonium for these weapons. Just one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of plutonium required around a thousand tons (907 metric tons) of uranium ore. Generated from uranium bombarded by neutrons in a nuclear reactor, the plutonium was later separated from the uranium in hellish baths of acids and solvents still awaiting disposal.
A long-deferred cleanup is now under way at 114 of the nation's nuclear facilities, which encompass an acreage equivalent to Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Many smaller sites, the easy ones, have been cleansed, but the big challenges remain. What's to be done with 52,000 tons (47,174 metric tons) of dangerously radioactive spent fuel from commercial and defense nuclear reactors? With 91 million gallons (344.5 million liters) of high-level waste left over from plutonium processing, scores of tons of plutonium, more than half a million tons (453,592 metric tons) of depleted uranium, millions of cubic feet of contaminated tools, metal scraps, clothing, oils, solvents, and other waste? And with some 265 million tons (240 million metric tons) of tailings from milling uranium ore—less than half stabilized—littering landscapes?
For an idea of scale: Load those tailings into railroad hopper cars, then pour the 91 million gallons (344.5 million liters) of waste into tank cars, and you would have a mythical train that would reach around the Equator and then some.
In a decade real trains and trucks carrying high-level waste may head to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, the government's choice, and a controversial one, for a permanent repository.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cancer claims from Attleboro atomic work growing


Cancer claims from Attleboro atomic work growing

BY RICK FOSTER SUN CHRONICLE STAFF | Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013 3:15 am
ATTLEBORO - Hundreds of former Metals & Controls and Texas Instruments employees who may have gotten cancer as a result of working at a nuclear fuel plant are pursing claims for compensation under a federal program.
More than 900 claims have been filed on behalf of ex-workers or survivors of those who worked at the Attleboro plant during the 1950s and '60s under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.
The Department of Labor-run program provides compensation and medical coverage to atomic workers who believe they developed cancer as a result of their jobs.
The total does not include another 252 cases referred to the National Institute of Occupational Science and Health under a separate category.
So far a total of $35 million has been disbursed to employees with one of 22 types of cancer who worked at the plant from 1952 to 1967. That includes $1.2 million in government-paid medical benefits.
An additional $3.7 million has been paid under the NIOSH program to those who worked at the plant in later years, but whose cancer was judged likely to be job-connected.
Many of the workers labored in close proximity to radioactive materials on Cold War military projects at a time it was feared conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union might erupt in nuclear war.
Some have compared the nuclear workers to the Rosie the Riveters of World War II, who kept ships, tanks and planes flowing to the front despite workplace hazards, housing shortages and little sleep.
Of compensation cases decided so far, about two-thirds of claims received from those who worked at the plant in the 1950s and '60s have been approved.
Under the parallel NIOSH program, which carries a higher standard of proof, only about 20 percent of those who filed claims were approved for compensation.
The former Metals & Controls plant manufactured nuclear fuel for the Navy and for government reactor programs beginning in the early 1950s and ending in 1981, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
About 90 percent of the compensation paid to date went to workers or family members of employees who worked in the 1950s and '60s, when atomic energy work was at its height.
A division of Engelhard Industries in Plainville conducted similar work during the 1950s and early '60s.
Texas Instruments, which purchased Metals & Controls in 1959, sold its Attleboro manufacturing campus in 2006.
The property, parts of which underwent extensive decontamination, was eventually turned into an industrial park.
As many as 6,000 people worked at the complex in its heyday.
The bulk of nuclear-related work was centered on a few buildings, but the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health was unable to find documentation confining the work to any one section of the factory comlex.
The Department of Labor classified the former TI property an "atomic weapons employer" site.
The federal government stepped up efforts to aid local atomic workers in 2010 by designating those who worked at the Attleboro plant from 1952 to 1967 a "special exposure cohort." The designation afforded them easier access to benefits without having to document precisely how much radiation exposure they received.
However, some former workers have complained that neither Texas Instruments nor the government adequately informed them they might be subject to work-related cancer or that there was a program available to help them.
Following a series of news stories in The Sun Chronicle and prompting by U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, the company sent letters to thousands of former workers informing them about the compensation program.
"My office is thrilled with the steady uptick in claims filed by former employees of Texas Instruments and their families," Kennedy said in a statement. "These workers deserve any compensation we can provide. We remain committed to working with any individual who needs help navigating the claims process and encourage folks to call our Attleboro office with any questions or concerns."
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Metals & Controls and later TI made nuclear fuels used by the Navy, Air Force and civilian government reactors, as well as switches for Navy submarines that contained radioactive radium 226.
TI cleaned up the property in 1997 and received sign-offs from federal and state officials.
But the number applications for federal compensation from former employees has continued to climb as a result of publicity and mailings.
In January, the Department of Labor reported it had approved 301 claims by former workers and paid out a total of $26.2 million in compensation related to the Attleboro site. Another $768,000 went to pay medical bills of affected workers.
According to the most recent statistics, a total of 407 claims have been approved, with payments totaling $34 million. That doesn't count an additional $1.2 million in medical care.
In addition the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health portion of the program, which had paid $3.4 million on 29 individual claims as of January, has seen those totals rise to $3.7 million on 31 claims.
Since surviving family members, as well as former workers, are permitted to file claims, the total number of claims reported by the Labor Department exceeds the number of former workers whose cases are connected with them.
According to statistics published by the Labor Department, the 1,198 claims submitted to date under both programs represent a total of 883 workers.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

U.S. Can’t Track Tons of Weapons-Grade Uranium, Plutonium



U.S. Can’t Track Tons of Weapons-Grade Uranium, Plutonium


President Obama has repeatedly said his top counterterrorism goal is to prevent terrorists from acquiring the building blocks to make nuclear or “dirty” bombs. In April of 2009, Obama announced a new international effort to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” Since then, the Department of Energy has dispatched scientists around the globe to collect hundreds of pounds of the stuff.
But according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued late last Friday afternoon to little fanfare, thousands of pounds of highly-enriched uranium and separated plutonium remain. American officials may never get a chance to ensure its security.
That’s because the U.S. can’t track or fully account for 5,900 pounds of “weapons usable” nuclear material that it once shipped overseas. Instead, U.S. officials have to rely on foreign governments’ assurances that the potentially cataclysmic stuff is safe. And when those officials occasionally visit the sites holding the nuclear material, nearly half the places “did not meet International Atomic Energy Agency security guidelines,” according to the GAO, Congress’ investigative arm.
“It’s amazing how completely cavalier the Department of Energy has been at tracking this. They’ve got nobody who worries about this on a day-to-day basis,” says Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons analyst at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (and occasional contributor to this blog).
The Energy Department, not surprisingly, has a different perspective. Foreign governments have pledged to report on the security of the their fissile material. There are international inspectors to keep those governments honest. And the GAO hasn’t reported that any uranium or plutonium has gone missing — just that certain guidelines may not have been yet.
“Between the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and the reporting requirements, we think those safeguards are effective and internationally sanctioned,” Josh McConaha, a spokesman for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, tells Danger Room.
Starting in the Eisenhower administration, the U.S. sold 17,500 kilograms, or 38,5000 pounds, of fissile material overseas, mostly to help with civilian nuclear energy programs. Those sales came with conditions, however: countries had to keep the dangerous material safe; they couldn’t use it for weapons; and the U.S. had the option of taking back the radioactive stuff — someday, somehow.
But 12,400 of those 17,500 kilograms can’t be returned. It’s mostly in the hands — and reactors — of close allies like Germany, France, and Japan. 1,160 kilograms have been accounted for, and another 1,240 kg have been secured by the Energy Department’s “Global Threat Reduction Initiative,” an effort to covert nuclear power facilities from highly-enriched to low-enriched uranium, which is far less dangerous.
Still, don’t assume that just because the nuke material is at our friends’ houses means it is completely secure. One source familiar with the report’s development says, “If this was in some former Soviet republic, we’d be there in a heartbeat.” Some of America’s closest allies may be the ones with the poorest nuclear security precautions.
And there’s just one other problem. Subtracting all the nuke material that’s been accounted for and secured still leaves 2,700 kg — nearly three tons — outstanding. And that’s enough material to make dozens of nuclear weapons.
Where that uranium and plutonium is located — or, where it’s supposed to be located — the GAO report doesn’t say. That information was considered too sensitive to disclose in a public document, and was instead laid out in a classified report sent to Congress over the summer. But it’s worth noting that the U.S. currently has 27 so-called “Nuclear Cooperation Agreements” with 27 countries, from China to Ukraine to Colombia. America previously had similar deals with 11 other countries — including Israel, Pakistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Iran.
“Theoretically, we know [where the nuclear material is kept]. But we don’t have a good accounting of where it all is. We’re relying on them. We’re not, to coin a phrase, trusting but verifying,” the source says.
Occasionally, American inspectors will travel to these sites, to make sure these sites have the proper fences and surveillance gear needed to keep their nuclear material safe. The track record wasn’t particularly encouraging. Of those 55 visits conducted between 1994 and 2010, “physical protection teams found the sites met IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] security guidelines on 27 visits, did not meet IAEA security guidelines on 21 visits, and the results of 7 visits are unknown because the physical protection team was unable to assess the sites, or agency documentation was missing,” the report notes.
Partially, this alarming GAO report is an outgrowth of shifting standards. The U.S. is demanding more security and more accountability, to cope with a world in which terrorists have nuclear ambitions — and20 major atomic smugglers has been caught in the last two decades. Many countries haven’t caught up with those changes.
“The old way of doing business was: You bought it. We have some rights, but it’s fundamentally not our problem,” Lewis says. “Now, things are different.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

FISSILE MATERIALS IN THE US


FISSILE MATERIALS IN THE US


Countries: United States

The United States is a nuclear weapon state member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In May 2010, the United States declared a stockpile of 5113 warheads as of the end of September 2009. This stockpile included almost 2000 strategic warheads deployed on about 800 missiles and bombers, 500 non-strategic warheads and 2,600 warheads in reserve. Additional 3500-4500 warheads are awaiting dismantlement. Taking into account the warheads in the dismantlement queue, the size of the U.S. weapon arsenal is estimated to be 9,400 nuclear warheads.
The current stock of fissile materials in the United States is estimated to include 94.8 tonnes of plutonium (80.7 tonnes of which is weapon-grade) and 686.6 tonnes of highly-enriched uranium (some of which is in irradiated naval fuel).  Of these amounts, 49.3 tonnes of separated plutonium and 194 tonnes of HEU have been declared as excess to military requirements. The United States has no separated civilian plutonium.
The United States is not producing fissile materials for weapons. Production of HEU for weapons ended in 1964. Additional HEU was produced for naval-reactor fuel through 1992. All U.S. production reactors were shut down in 1987.

Highly-enriched uranium

The United States was the first country to produce enriched uranium. During 1945-47, a little over a tonne of HEU was produced by electromagnetic separation at the Manhattan Project's Y-12 plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Then the HEU production shifted to two large gaseous diffusion plants, one at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and one at Portsmouth, Ohio.
The Oak Ridge gaseous diffusion plant produced HEU for weapons during 1945-1964 and thereafter produced only low-enriched uranium for nuclear power-plant fuel until 1985. The Portsmouth plant started production in 1956 and also produced HEU for weapons until 1964. Then it shifted to producing mostly low-enriched uranium for power-reactor fuel and HEU enriched to an average of 97.4 %, for naval-propulsion reactor fuel. There are several new commercial uranium enrichment facilities that are being built in the United States (seeFacilities: Uranium enrichment). None of them will be producing highly-enriched uranium.
Cumulatively, the United States acquired 751.9 tonnes of uranium-235 (835 tonnes of 90% HEU equivalent). As of the end of September 2004, about 180 tonnes of HEU had been consumed in nuclear reactor fuel, nuclear tests, transfers to foreign countries, and down-blending to low-enriched uranium (LEU). The measured HEU inventory was declared as 590.5 tonnes of U-235 in 686.6 tonnes of HEU as of September 2004 (656 tonnes 90% HEU equivalent). By the end of 2012, with about 141 tons of material either downblended or sent for downblending, the United States had a remaining stockpile of 604 tonnes of HEU.
Of the total HEU stock, about 100 tonnes had been fabricated into naval fuel that is to be disposed of in a geological repository after use. Another 159 tonnes have been designated for the naval-fuel reserve, and  20 tonnes have been reserved for use in space and research reactors.

Weapon plutonium

The first significant amounts of plutonium produced in the United States were used in the nuclear explosive that was tested in New Mexico on 16 July 1945 and then the bomb based on that design that was detonated over the Japanese city of Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. This plutonium was produced by the first three graphite-moderated, water-cooled reactors built on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Hanford site on the Columbia River in Washington State. Later, an additional six such production reactors were built at Hanford and another five, moderated and cooled by heavy water, were built on the DOE's Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The primary mission of the Savannah River reactors was to produce tritium for U.S. nuclear weapons but they produced a great deal of weapon-grade plutonium as well.
U.S. production of weapon-grade plutonium peaked in the 1950's and early 1960's. During the 1960s, nine of the fourteen U.S. production reactors were shut down. Five continued to operate into the 1980s, primarily to produce tritium. All U.S. production reactors were finally shut down in 1987.
According to the official plutonium balance reselased by DoE in 2009, the United States produced and acquired 111.7 tonnes of plutonium. As of the end of September 2009, the United States had used and otherwise removed 14.0 tonnes of this plutonium. Measured inventory in 2009 was declared to be 95.4 tonnes, leaving 2.4 tonnes as inventory difference. Of the 95.4 tonnes, 81.3 tonnes is weapon-grade plutonium, 12.7 tonnes is fuel-grade, and 1.4 tonnes is power-reactor grade plutonium. These numbers do not include 3.8 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium that had been disposed of as waste as of 2009.
In its 2011 INFCIRC/549 declaration, the United States reported that 61.5 tonnes of government owned plutonium has beed declared as excess for national security needs. This amount includes 44.7 tonnes of separated plutonium, 4.6 tonnes of plutonium in unirradiated MOX fuel, and less than 0.05 tonnes held in the fuel fabrication process. In addition, 7.8 tonnes of the plutonium declared as excess is in irradiated fuel and 4.4 tonnes was disposed of as waste.
Taking into account that 7.8 tonnes of the plutonium inventory is in irradiated fuel and the 4.4 tonnes has beed disposed of as waste, the amount of separated plutonium is 87.0 tonnes (95.4 tonnes declared in 2009 minus 7.8 tonnes and minus additional 0.6 tonnes disposed of as waste between 2009 and 2011). However, this amount includes contaminated material, residuses and other forms.  

Civilian plutonium

The United States has no separated civilian plutonium. At the end of 2011, an estimated 546 tonnes of plutonium was contained in spent fuel stored at civilian reactor sites and 12 tonnes of plutonium in spent fuel stored elsewhere. These 12 tonnes include the 7.8 tonnes of government owned plutonium that was declared as excess to national security needs that is accounted for in the weapon plutonium section.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shpack Landfill (FUSRAP Site) Norton, MA (5 acre site)

Schpack Landfill

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Shpack Landfill (FUSRAP Site) Norton, MA (5 acre site)

The Shpack Landfill is located about 65 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Boston in the towns of Norton and Attleboro, Massachusetts. The landfill began operating in the 1960s as a landfill for both industrial and domestic wastes. The landfill was closed under court-order in the mid-1960s. In the late 1970s a concerned citizen who detected elevated radiation levels at the site contacted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It was confirmed that there was radioactivity present that was above acceptable limits and probably originated from activities performed by Texas Instruments (formerly known as M&C Nuclear, Inc.). The landfill contains wastes that are contaminated with high-enriched uranium, low-enriched uranium, natural uranium, depleted uranium, radium and various chemicals. Macroscopic amounts of high-enriched uranium and other radioactive materials were removed during a 1980�s survey by Oak Ridge personnel. The site was part of the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP). The FUSRAP Program was transferred to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in 1997 in accordance with the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for FY 1998.