government will open an office near Rocky Flats to help
workers win compensation for health problems from
exposure to toxic materials, such as plutonium and
The office will open in mid-June, the U.S. Department
of Labor announced Thursday. The department also will
open an office at the Denver regional center to expedite
Similar offices will open near seven other sites
around the nation where nuclear weapons parts were
manufactured during the Cold War.
On Aug. 1, the Labor Department will begin
distributing to the injured workers compensation of up
to $150,000 plus lifetime medical benefits under a
program first announced in 1999.
Counselors at the new offices will inform workers and
former workers of the program and help them fill out
claim forms, said Peter Turcic, the head of a Labor
Department task force focusing on workers' problems in
the nuclear weapons industry.
The offices also will help obtain work records to
show that employees were in areas with toxic materials,
The government does not know how many claims to
expect since some could come from people who left the
nuclear weapons industry decades ago. However, the Labor
and Energy departments have used a working estimate of
3,000 people nationwide, half of whom contracted cancer.
At least 115 people at Rocky Flats became ill from
inhaling beryllium dust, but 100 others are at risk of
developing the disease. Beryllium is a metal that was
machined into bomb parts.
Many others at Rocky Flats came in contact with
plutonium, a heavy metal linked to cancer.
Members of Colorado's congressional delegation had
urged the Labor Department to open offices to help the
"That means there's going to be a dedicated effort to
try to identify those people so they can begin to get
reimbursed," Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said Thursday.
Tony DeMaiori, the head of the United Steel Workers
local at Rocky Flats, said, "We think that's great. . .
. That $150,000 will be greatly appreciated."
The federal government throughout the Cold War had
brushed off claims from workers that they contracted
diseases from exposure to plutonium and beryllium dust.
That stance changed in 1999, when President Clinton
and former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said the
government should meet its responsibility to people who
manufactured nuclear weapons.