Senate Hearing Focuses on Compensation for Test Site Workers

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Thousands of workers kept the schedule of nuclear tests going during the Cold War, a time when mushroom clouds on the horizon were a regular curiosity in Las Vegas.

The people working closer to the blasts approached their work with the same unconcerned patriotism that most Nevadans viewed the testing.

Some say they were told not to wear radiation monitors on their clothing. Most say they were never aware of the sacrifice they were making, but they were part of the Cold War victory, and they paid a price. Many say they developed cancer and other diseases as a direct result of that work.

Tuesday in Washington, Senate Harry Reid told a Senate Committee the government either knew or should have known these workers were being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.

Eight years ago, Reid voted with most other Senators to set up a program to give special status to workers at nuclear sites around the country. The program pledges compensation of $150,000 dollars and medical benefits to those who the government determines got cancer or other illnesses as a result of their work at the Test Site.

However, Reid said that compensation has been held up most by government red tape. He urged the committee to streamline the process, noting that as time is running out to correct this wrong as the remaining workers age.