This year a nuclear plant in Piketon, Ohio, which has been operating since 1954, was decommissioned and environmental clean up is underway. Despite the government’s continued efforts to deny former employees assistance there are countless individuals who are being effected by the plant regardless of its closing or clean up. Multiple ex-employees have come forward claiming the radiation exposure that they endured while working in the plant has given them rare and advanced forms of cancer and other diseases. Ex-employees, like Lisa Parker (who now suffers from beryllium disease) and her husband Calvin Parker (who, along with 8 other men in his department of 14 suffers from an aggressive form of prostate cancer) have applied multiple times to gain assistance from the government by filing health claims with little to no success.
The truly alarming piece to this story is the lack of support and recognition that these ex-employees are received with when they take their health claims to the government. Scientists have described the form of prostate cancer that Calvin Parker and other employees are suffering from as highly aggressive and uncommon, directly linking this form to uranium-234 exposure. Even more disturbing is how the Department of Energy is handling these claims; they are not testing for, or recognizing, uranium-234 (although the test for other forms of uranium). This form of uranium is what most employees were exposed to during work and not recognizing this is a huge oversight by the Department of Energy. When they look through health claims and run dose simulations (without testing for uranium-234) they are leaving out a huge piece of this poisonous puzzle and repeatedly denying these victims assistance. Furthermore a study done by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found no causal connection between the radiation exposure that occurred in Piketon and the health issues reported. All of these agencies that are supposed to be in place to protect these workers are failing them and leaving these sick people to fend for themselves, despite the fact that they’re leaving important information out and ignoring direct connections.
This story was covered by Al Jazeera, however it was difficult finding coverage for it on any major, corporate media sources. Through research I was able to find some local news sources that mentioned the issue, however all of them directly cited the Al Jazeera article and I could not find a source independent of the Al Jazeera one covering the story. As I continued to research other incidences of nuclear plant workers reporting cancer I found some but still nothing from major news sources. This story and stories like it are censored by the government because 1. they don’t want us to know the potential risk these plants really pose and 2. they don’t want to admit they’re accountable/be required to offer relief to these victims. This is an issue that could be affecting small towns all over the country without public outcry due to lack of press. There is also a great deal of censorship surrounding nuclear power plants in general due to the amount of money and power involved at a higher level, How can we be expected to protect ourselves and local citizens to these plants if we are kept in the dark and misinformed?
Williams, Kevin. “The Cancer Cluster of Piketon, Ohio.” Al Jazeera. February 26th, 2016, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2016/2/25/the-cancer-cluster-of-piketon-ohio.html
Student Researcher: Annie McCall (University of Vermont)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)