Report blames plant for workers’ illnesses
Independent auditor backs claims of sick employees that they weren’t protected from radiation.
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By Tom Beyerlein
Friday, July 13, 2007
An independent auditor in a report released Thursday said the nuclear Feed Materials Production Center at Fernald had a “failed and deficient worker protection program” during its 38-year history, and questioned the government’s ability to properly screen cancer-stricken former workers who have applied for federal compensation.
The report by S. Cohen & Associates of Vienna, Va., supports a petition by sick Fernald workers seeking special status that would greatly reduce their burden for proving their cancers were caused by on-the-job radiation exposures.
It clashes with the opinion of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which said it has enough plant and worker records to scientifically reconstruct claimants’ career exposures to radiation and determine whether the exposure was sufficient to cause cancer.
Cohen disagreed, saying: “Dose reconstruction for most, if not all, workers (including nonproduction workers) would pose a myriad of challenges along with questionable results. (Historical) documents consistently characterize a facility that was deficient in the most basic engineering designs, radiological control practices and worker monitoring programs.”
The advisory board for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program ultimately will decide whether to grant the special status to sick Fernald workers.
NIOSH spokeswoman Amanda Harney said NIOSH, Cohen and the advisory board will begin discussing the issue in August.
The former Fernald uranium refinery site, in Hamilton County’s Crosby Twp., 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati, now is home to a 1,050-acre wildlife habitat.