Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Nuke panel adds Ohio, Ky. members

The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON - Responding to concerns about the makeup of a panel advising the government on compensating sick nuclear weapons workers, the White House on Monday added worker advocates from Kentucky and Ohio to the group.

        Leon Owens, president of a local workers' union at the Energy Department's uranium plant in Paducah, Ky., was added. And the administration appointed Mike Gibson, president of the union at the department's Mound nuclear weapons plant in Miamisburg, Ohio.

        Labor advocates had complained that they wanted more representatives on the panel, which will now have 13 members.

        A law enacted by Congress two years ago required the White House to appoint an advisory board that reflected “a balance of scientific, medical and worker perspectives.”

        Just one rank-and-file worker had previously been named. He is Richard Espinosa, a metal shop steward at the Los Alamos lab in New Mexico.

        After decades of denials, the government acknowledged in 1999 that workers who helped the Energy Department and its vendors build nuclear weapons during the Cold War probably got sick because of on-the-job exposure.

        “I think the additional appointments today went a good ways toward leveling the playing field on the board.”


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