Friday, June 15, 2007

Forgotten Costs of Plutonium Pit Production

As Los Alamos National Laboratories prepare a July 2, 2007 commemoration of the production of the first plutonium pit certified for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile since the prior plutonium pit facility at Rocky Flats was closed by an FBI raid in 1989, not all plutonium workers have something to celebrate.

Dan Frosch of the New York Times reports that a federal advisory panel has rejected the petition of workers employed at the Rocky Flats Plant since 1966 to be classified as a Special Exposure Cohort under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000. This classification would provide them more rapid access to compensation if they have any of 22 types of cancer related to radioactive and other hazardous materials exposures known to have occurred at the facility. Workers employed at Rocky Flats before 1966 are already part of a Special Exposure Cohort.

Expedited compensation is particularly urgent as one in ten workers so far approved for compensation died before receiving it:

Total number of people who worked at Rocky Flats: 22,000
Rocky Flats health compensation paid to date: $95.7 million to 674 people
Number of workers whose claims were approved but died before receiving payment: 67
Number of claims still pending: 1,258

Given that the Department of Energy has been able to certify the nuclear stockpile to be safe and reliable without a new plutonium pit since Rocky Flats closed, and that producing plutonium pits is inherently dangerous, and independent scientific analysis has shown they last a very long time, and we are supposed to be dismantling nuclear weapons anyway, why are we in such a hurry to produce new plutonium pits?


  1. Hi, Doug,

    These people never learn. Or, more accurately, they HAVE learned, all too well, that creating a global scare of nuclear proportions will make them incredibly wealthy; that's ultimately what this is about. Find out who makes the money off the uranium, the bomb parts, the "recycling" process, etc., and we'll find out why there's an effort to restart the arms race.

    Security is not a real concern of those who espouse nuclear arsenals, any more than saving lives was a concern of the people who made "Scopas suits" in James Morrow's "This is the Way the World Ends."

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  3. Thanks, Jay, for your thoughtful comment and great suggestion!

    I look forward to learning more about who is making money on reprocessing.