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South Dakota 1950s uranium workers eligible for compensation

July 29, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — People who became sick after being exposed to toxic materials while working at a South Dakota uranium ore-buying station more than 60 years ago may qualify for compensation under a federal program.

The federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation program is ready to compensate those who worked at the American Smelting and Refining Co., and Lucius Pitkin Inc. station in Edgemont from 1952 to 1956, or their surviving family members, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Congress created the program in 2000 for employees of the U.S. Department of Energy who suffered illnesses arising from their work in nuclear weapons production and testing programs. The Edgemont station sold uranium to the U.S. government for nuclear weapons production during the Cold War.

Uranium occurs naturally in rocks. It’s a basic ingredient for nuclear bombs and nuclear power. It’s used to produce the enormous amounts of energy in a nuclear detonation or a nuclear reactor. Inhaling large concentrations of uranium in the form of mining dust can cause cancer.

The program provides compensation and medical benefits for contractor and subcontractor employees of the station who, “as a result of this employment, sustained illnesses arising from their exposure to toxic substances, including exposure to radiation,” according to a federal government notice sent to the Journal.

It has already paid a total of $10.37 million to 120 South Dakota workers.

Compensation can be lump-sum payments of $150,000, plus medical expenses, or people can qualify for a cap of $250,000 for wage losses, impairment benefits and medical expenses.

Not everyone who worked at the facility is eligible. Applicants must meet a number of qualifications.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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