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09/06/00- Updated 03:11 PM ET

Secret project carried hidden dangers

In the 1940s and '50s, the U.S. government secretly hired scores of private companies to process huge volumes of nuclear weapons material. But the companies were not prepared for the hazards of handling nuclear material. Workers were not informed of the risks. Thousands were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Government reports were classified and buried. The result is a legacy of poisoned workers and communities that lingers to this day. The full story of the secret nuclear contracting has never been told, until now.

Today Thursday Friday
Toxic legacy
At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. government secretly hired hundreds of private companies to work on America's nuclear weapons program and never told the workers or communities of the dangers they might face from radiation and other hazards.

The workers
Many of the surviving workers now have higher risks for cancer and other ailments, but there has been almost no effort to learn whether such problems have occurred. That oversight might cost those who have gotten sick a chance for compensation.

The environment
Radioactive and toxic contamination at many of the contracting sites lingered for years, sometimes with serious health risks. Some still are not cleaned up, ignored by federal programs meant to address pollution from nuclear weapons production.

Full story

'Devil is in the dose'

Richardson: U.S. committed to cleanup

Only beryllium workers slated for compensation

Few efforts made to study occupational illnesses
Military bases used in hazardous processing

Food and crops, transport workers exposed

COVER PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Lewis Malcolm, former employee of a nuclear weapons contractor in Lockport, N.Y. Malcolm died of kidney failure in June. (Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

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