The citizens began to develop brain tumors, cancer, and beryllium disease at alarming rates.Nuclear plants have had their success stories -- for example the plants that survived an earthquake in Japan largely unharmed. However, despite the fair share of success stories, there are also some grim cautionary tales of what to avoid in nuclear power and why safety precautions, regulations, and adopting modern designs are of an utmost importance to nuclear power plants and nuclear processing facilities.
One largely unnoticed example is gaining big national attention [in the US] thanks to a hefty $27.5M USD settlement awarded to the 250 plaintiffs who suffered disease and death due to poor regulation and flaws in the technology. The story begins in Apollo and Parks Township in Armstrong county Pennsylvania, back in the late 1950s. The Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp., eager to profit at the booming trend to exploit nuclear energy, jumped at the chance of opening new facilities to process nuclear fuel. In 1959 they opened two new plants in the respective townships, which processed both uranium and plutonium fuels.
Johnson and other plaintiffs received little support from the government. Despite an expert epidemiologist analysis during the case which concluded that disease levels "[fell] outside the normal range", the state refused to classify the area as a cancer cluster. With nowhere else to turn the families sued ARCO in federal court. Eight plaintiffs were represented. The jury ordered a settlement of $35M USD in 1998, finally promising some relief to the families' suffering. However to the family's dismay, U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose ordered a retrial due to errors in the trial. Says one plaintiff, "All of the verdicts were taken away."
Babcock & Wilcox then filed bankruptcy and the cases were not retried. Finally after years of inaction, a new suit against Atlantic Richfield Co. with 250 plaintiffs has succeeded securing a settlement of $27.5 million. Another new suit is pending against Babcock & Wilcox in federal court, but due to the company's uncertain financial status it is unclear how much damages could be collected.
Average payouts from the settlement will be about $35,000 and a few of the sicker plaintiffs will get as much as $500,000. Park and other plant employees may soon also be eligible for $150,000 in relief offered by the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act passed by Congress in 2000. The final approval for the plants' eligibility designation will be made sometime next year.
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