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Bill would expand access to comp for federal nuclear site workers

Posted On: Jul. 31, 2020 1:04 PM CST


A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday would help workers at federal radioactive sites obtain workers compensation for work-related cancers and other health issues. 

S.B. 4363, introduced Wednesday by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), would establish an occupational disease presumption for employees at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Radioactive Waste Management Complex.

The bill is aimed at helping cleanup workers at Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear Site and other nuclear sites more easily claim workers compensation benefits when they suffer from medical conditions as a result of exposure to toxic substances, Sen. Murray’s office said Thursday in a news release.

While the state of Washington created a presumption law for Hanford workers in 2018, the federal legislation would cover workers at other Energy Department nuclear sites. The Hanford site is a 560-square-mile federally operated site known for having manufactured plutonium used in one of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in late 2018 over the state’s presumption law, claiming that the law discriminated against the federal government and its Energy Department contractors and aimed to directly regulate the federal government by imposing extra cleanup costs on the decommissioned site. However, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in June 2019.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.