Amchitka workers to get compensation



Hundreds of survivors of nuclear weapons tests will soon receive checks from the U.S. government under a new program to compensate those exposed to radiation or other toxic substances in the U.S., says the Anchorage Daily News.

Amchitka, a small island near the tip of the Aleutian Chain, was the site of three nuclear tests in the 1960s and 1970s, including the largest underground blast ever conducted in the U.S. After the first test, in 1965, radiation seeped out of the surface and into the ground water. A second explosion, in 1969, was even bigger, though radiation was never measured above ground.

The third test, called Cannikin, required drilling a 10-foot-diameter hole more than a mile deep. Miners were lowered daily to cut through the well casing and create a 52-foot-diameter cavity in the rock. Temperatures “in the hole” ran as high as 120 C. The humidity was 100 per cent, yet fires occasionally ignited.

Over the years, drill operators, miners, cooks and others fell ill or died from a variety of diseases.

Some Amchitka workers automatically qualified for a $150,000 compensation award, plus free medical care. They worked on the island between 1965 and 1974 and developed any of two dozen cancers or lung diseases. The first received checks in early 2002, but many others have still been waiting for compensation.

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