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More ex-nuclear arms workers to get aid

June 13, 2007|From the Associated Press

LAKEWOOD, COLO. — A federal panel voted Tuesday to recommend special medical compensation for about 4,000 more former workers at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant but stopped short of including everyone who had worked there.

The decision still leaves about 15,000 former workers -- some of them with life-threatening diseases they blame on conditions at the plant -- without coverage.

The new vote by the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health would extend coverage to people who worked at the plant from 1959 to 1966.

The recommendation goes to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department before Congress makes the final decision.

Previously, the board had recommended special coverage to workers from 1952 to 1958.

The two recommendations combined still leave about 75% of the former workers without coverage.

Workers can apply for individual exemptions.

Jennifer Thompson, a former Rocky Flats worker who wrote the petition for special compensation, said the new decision would be appealed because it was made without enough data on workers or their conditions.

Currently, the former workers must prove their diseases were the result of exposure to plutonium or other chemicals at the plant in order to get compensation.

Former workers at 21 other nuclear sites can get government benefits simply by showing they have a form of cancer that can be caused by radiation.

Colorado's congressional delegation sent a letter to the advisory board in May saying the government has delayed compensating the workers and has blocked the path of legitimate claims.

The plant, 15 miles northwest of Denver, made plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads.

It opened in 1951 but was shut down in 1991 after a troubled history that included several fires.

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