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1 WORKER SAFETY AND HEALTH PRACTICES AT GASEOUS DIFFUSION PLANTS IN THE DOE COMPLEX: RESULTS OF HISTORICAL INVESTIGATION (1999-2000) Ronald Stolberg Office.

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Presentation on theme: "1 WORKER SAFETY AND HEALTH PRACTICES AT GASEOUS DIFFUSION PLANTS IN THE DOE COMPLEX: RESULTS OF HISTORICAL INVESTIGATION (1999-2000) Ronald Stolberg Office."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 WORKER SAFETY AND HEALTH PRACTICES AT GASEOUS DIFFUSION PLANTS IN THE DOE COMPLEX: RESULTS OF HISTORICAL INVESTIGATION ( ) Ronald Stolberg Office of ES&H Evaluations Office of Independent ES&H Oversight AIHCE Conference June 6, 2001

2 2 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Overview Background and Scope of the Investigation GDP Processes, Description, and Operations Historical Conditions and Practices Radiological, Physical, and Chemical Hazards Worker Safety and Health Programs Epidemiology and Other Health Studies Investigation Results Administration Actions/Worker Compensation

3 3 Background and Scope of Investigation Historical period from GDP construction (early 1940s) until GDPs privatized (late 1990s) Documented working conditions and hazards Identified applicable standards and requirements Determined effectiveness of management policies Investigation Process - Reviewed historical documents, interviewed workers, toured facilities Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants

4 4 GDP Processes, Description, and Operation GDPs established to provide enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, nuclear propulsion and commercial power plants Involves increasing proportion of U-235 through repeated application of series of separation stages (or cascades) GPD process similar at Oak Ridge, TN; Paducah, KY; and Portsmouth, OH First GDP Plant at K-25 Site in Oak Ridge, TN; began operating in 1945 Site also contained barrier manufacturing plant Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants

5 5 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Historical Conditions and Practices 1940s and 1950s - emphasis was on production of material to support War effort and Cold War Security conscious environment Workers discouraged from raising concerns Self-regulating environment Hazard communication, exposure monitoring, and medical surveillance programs minimal

6 6 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Radiological hazards included uranium, uranium decay products, transuranic elements, and fission products Widespread belief that uranium not significant health hazard Risks include exposure to lung, kidney, and bone Consensus standards not rigorously enforced at GDP sites Radiological, Physical, and Chemical Hazards

7 7 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Radiological, Physical, and Chemical Hazards Physical conditions were harsh –Temperatures could range from degrees Fahrenheit –Noise level measured at 103 to 108 decibels Workers potentially exposed to a wide variety of chemical compounds including –Hydrofluoric acid, uranyl fluoride, fluorine, freon, and asbestos –Mercury in instruments and gauges –Nickel dust and fumes from welding operations and other activities –Methyl chloroform, trichloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride and other degreasing agents

8 8 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Worker Safety and Health Programs Programs in industrial safety, industrial hygiene, health physics, and medical; staffing was minimal Safety and health organization provided awareness information and provided limited surveys In 1940s and 1950s, hazards sampled included dust, chemicals, noise, and heat In 1950s, handbook on criticality safety, personal protective equipment, and chemical burns published In 1972, high priority industrial hygiene problems identified (noise, heat stress, laboratory hood ventilation, asbestos, beryllium, and organic solvents)

9 9 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Epidemiology and Other Health Studies In October 1996, Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union initiated an assessment to establish need for medical surveillance program for former GDP workers Study indicated that GDP workers had significant exposure to pulmonary, bladder, renal, neuro, and hepatotoxins; and noise and heat Epidemiologic studies demonstrate excess risk for -- bladder cancer, chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, asbestosis, chronic nephritis, and bone cancer Assessment findings indicated need for targeted medical surveillance program

10 10 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Investigation Results National defense issues, economic conditions, and industrial practices influenced working conditions Production priorities took precedence over environment, safety, and health considerations Professional safety and health staff were minimal, hazards not always communicated, and controls often inadequate Unnecessary exposures resulted Prior to 1970s, ES&H regulations and oversight were minimal

11 11 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Administration Actions/Worker Compensation Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act passed October 2000 (Bill 5408, Title XXXVI) Benefits to covered workers include lump sum payment of $150,000 and payment of future medical benefits associated with disease Covers workers with beryllium disease, certain cancers, and silicosis The Department of Energy is in the process of opening thirteen worker advocacy offices across the country

12 12 Investigation of Worker Safety and Health Practices at Gaseous Diffusion Plants Administration Actions/Worker Compensation Gaseous Diffusion Plant Investigation Reports are available at Contact DOE Office of Worker Advocacy at for information and see for a copy of legislation


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