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writing for godot


Written by Colleen Callan   
Saturday, 04 August 2012 05:09

Students, faculty and administrators at New York University, Stanford, Columbia, MIT, SUNY at Stony Brook and over a dozen universities in the United States may have been exposed to cancer causing radiation, Beryllium, plutonium, silica and other highly toxic substances while attending school or working at universities holding contracts with the Department of Energy from 1941 through the present.

The universities on a list from Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) website provided by the Office of Health, Safety and Security were listed as “Atomic Weapons Employers”, “Beryllium Vendors” and “Weapons Research and Development Facilities” doing work such as “nuclear research involving plutonium and uranium” at the universities’ laboratories.

Over 400 contaminated DOE sites, or their contractors and subcontractors, are listed by the EEOICPA. Persons at listed DOE sites may be compensated for their exposure to toxic and radioactive substances in the course of their work and research but if the exposed person is already deceased, surviving relatives could be entitled to monetary compensation.

Any person who worked or studied at the university sites listed, during the specified time periods, are entitled to a free medical screening, medical benefits and lump sum payments from $150,000 to $400,000 dollars if they have cancers or other illnesses presumed to be caused by their exposure to carcinogenic and radioactive substances when the DOE was working on early nuclear weapons creation and testing at many American colleges; including several in the New York area.

According to the EEOICPA website, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook is listed as a DOE contractor (1998-present). At Brookhaven National Laboratories (BNL) in Upton, Long Island (1947-present) the Department of Energy conducted basic and applied research in high energy and nuclear physics. The potential for exposure to Beryllium existed at this site, according to the DOE website. SUNY is listed as a contractor under BNL on the DOE list.

In January of 2010, Brookhaven National Laboratory was named part of a Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) Class for the years 1947-1979. Administered by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) it refers to a time in history when records are difficult to obtain, because of the secret nature of the nuclear weapons programs carried out at many universities and laboratories like BNL. Anyone who worked at BNL from 1947-present may be eligible for compensation. The program is primarily administered by The Department of Labor (DOL), which handles the intake and is also responsible for notification. Then the Department of Energy or NIOSH will determine the level of compensation based upon dosage levels of radiation, Beryllium and a whole laundry list of other toxins and known carcinogens people were exposed to in the course of their work or study.

One of the contractors, another "Atomic Weapons Employer"; Chapman Valve Manufacturing Co., located in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts supplied and "machined uranium rods into slugs for the Brookhaven National Laboratory" where BNL used them as reactor fuel. Other contractors listed under BNL on the DOE site are Battelle Memorial Institute (1998-present) and Associated Universities (1947-1998).

The Special Alloyed Materials Laboratories (SAM) at Columbia University in New York City, was involved in the process of researching whether it was feasible for the United States to build a nuclear weapon in the early nineteen forties. Buildings used as part of the SAM Laboratories included: Pupin, Schmermerhorn, Prentiss, Havemeyer and Nash. Work related to the production ended in 1947 with the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission and subsequent work focused on health effects and basic nuclear physics.

The University of Chicago had several contractors and subcontractors who worked with Beryllium, plutonium and uranium. Between June 1943 and July 1944 DuPont and the University of Chicago subcontracted the Baker Brothers also known as Rems Inc. to machine roll metal rods into uranium slugs that were used for fuel in the world’s first reduction reactors, according to the website.

The Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, known as Eckhardt Hall (+ West Stands, New Chem. Lab and Annex, Ryerson Physical Lab, Kent Chem. Lab) was also known as “Met Lab” from 1942-1946.

Billed as an atomic weapons employer and Beryllium vendor simultaneously, the Met Lab was involved in early uranium metallurgical work as part of the Manhattan Project and connected to Enrico Fermi’s work; the “Chicago Pile 1”, the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

Beryllium was used at the Metallurgical Laboratory when Fermi was conducting experiments trying to decide whether to use graphite, heavy water or Beryllium as a pile moderator. He eventually chose graphite, but at this site throughout the course of its operations, the potential for Beryllium exposure existed due to residual contamination and decontamination activities, according to the EEOICPA site.

The University of California at Berkeley, Los Alamos and Los Angeles are all listed as Department of Energy/EEOICPA sites.

“The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), also known as the Lawrence Radiation Lab, was founded by Ernesto Orlando Lawrence, winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron.” according to the DOE site.

In 1942 the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) was founded and scientists at Berkeley joined the group and developed the electromagnetic enrichment process that was installed and operated at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge from 1943-1947, according to the DOE site.

The Berkeley scientists discovered the trans-uranium elements: plutonium, neptunium and americium. Work took place in Gilman Hall on the University of California campus, considered to be part of the LBL. “Exposure to Beryllium in the course of the operations existed during the time of operation as well as residual contamination and during decontamination activities (1942-present)”.

The Perdue University chemistry building in Lafayette, Indiana, listed as an Atomic Weapons Employer, was involved in nuclear physics research during the Manhattan Project. (1942-1946)

Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) listed as a DOE contractor (1951-present), located on sites C and D of the James Forrestal Campus and owned by Princeton University, began with construction of the Model-C Stellerator and continues to conduct research on nuclear fusion and development of non-weapons applications of this technology.

In January of 2009, the US DOE awarded a new contract to Princeton University for the management and operation of the PPPL in New Jersey. The contract runs from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2014 is valued at approximately $390 million and under the agreement, Princeton can earn an award fee of up to $1.8 million each year.

Current research at the lab involves innovative experiments that use powerful magnets to confine and control high temperature plasmas. Fusion power systems have the potential to produce abundant energy without producing long-lived nuclear wastes or air pollution.

Located in Charlottesville, The University of Virginia is listed as an Atomic Weapons Employer (1942-1949); 1960s; residual radiation 1970-85.

The University of Virginia played an integral role in developing the process to use uranium in the development of nuclear weapons.

At Stanford, in Palo Alto from 1962 to the present, the Department of Energy contracted with Stanford, which owns and operates the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) a research facility for high-energy particle physics.

The center's four major experimental facilities are the Linear Accelerator, the Positron Electron Project Storage Ring, the Stanford Positron Electron Asymmetric Ring and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center Linear Collider.

Other East coast colleges included in the EEOICPA/ DOE site list are the University of Rochester; responsible for the early fundamental contributions to the first nuclear weapons known as the Atomic Energy Project and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; listed as a beryllium vendor.

Exposure to Beryllium in vapor, dust or particle form, when inhaled, can cause Chronic Beryllium Disease, an incurable lung disease which can take decades to show symptoms, but eventually can cause the lungs to shut down completely.

To see the complete list of Universities, Contractors and Subcontractors click the link to the DOE database:

Sources: DOE, EEOICPA, NIOSH and HHS databases.

For a list of facts and to see the compensation schedule see the EEOICPA Fact Sheet.


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