Senate Democrats


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Harry Reid’s efforts on behalf of workers at the Nevada Test Site paid off today.  Hundreds of workers who were exposed to cancer-causing levels of radiation and placed in harm’s way by the Department of Energy (DOE) and its contractors, subcontractors, and vendors will now receive much-needed compensation.  These workers were put into dangerous situations without proper knowledge, adequate radiation monitoring, and without necessary protections from radiation exposures.

Approximately 440 Test Site workers who filed claims and received a Special Exposure Cohorts (SEC) designation will now receive compensation.  The SEC is an expedited and streamlined process for groups of workers whose radiation dose cannot be estimated with sufficient accuracy or in a timely manner.  Designation as an SEC allows eligible employees to be compensated without a determination of dose and causation.  They are compensated based on their employment at the site and having at least 1 of 22 designated cancers.  This SEC that is effective today covers workers who were employed at the Test Site from 1951-1962 for at least 250 days.

“This has been decades in the making, but for these workers who are suffering, it has felt like a lifetime,” said Reid.  “These citizens served their country by working in facilities that produced and tested nuclear weapons and were involved in other defense activities that served as a deterrent during the Cold War.  I am happy that hundreds of these Cold War veterans will now get the compensation they deserve.”

Six years ago, Senator Reid worked with then-President Bill Clinton to pass legislation to ensure that DOE workers and contractors who were exposed to radiation, beryllium or silica in the course of their work received compensation for the illnesses they contracted. 

While this is good news for these 440 workers, there is more to be done.  They represent a third of the claimants who are still waiting to be compensated, 1,345 in total.

The U.S. conducted 100 above-ground and 828 underground nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site from 1951 – 1992–88% of all nuclear tests conducted in the U.S.  Senator Reid is committed to using multiple angles to ensure that employees who contracted cancer from this work are compensated.  He will do that by:

  • Ensuring those employed at the site from 1951 – 1962 for less than 250 days also become part of the SEC.  The current limit of 250 days or more of employment would mean that workers who were at ground zero for all 100 above ground tests would not be compensated;
  • Continue to push his legislation, The Nevada Test Site Veteran’s Compensation Act of 2006, S. 2439.  This bill would compensate those who worked at the site through 1993;
  • Assisting workers in preparing a SEC petition to get compensation for those who worked on the site through 1993.  Senator Reid and a core group of workers are coordinating with other employees, groups and experts to pull together this petition. 

The Department of Labor will now review all of the claims that have been filed to determine eligibility, including workers who have been previously denied compensation.  Workers who fall into the classification, but have not yet filed a claim are part of the SEC and are encouraged to file a claim.