A House-Senate conference committee has approved a bill adding $18 million for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup and providing benefits for current and former plant workers with kidney cancers. Approved Thursday afternoon, the conference report is expected to be passed by the House today and the Senate soon, said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville. President Bush is expected to then sign it into law, he said.
The conference version has $9 million more cleanup money than the original House version, McConnell said, and adds kidney cancers to the list of diseases for which plant workers and their families qualify for $150,000 in lump-sum compensation, plus medical benefits.
David Fuller, president of the plant's Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE) union, credited McConnell and other Kentucky lawmakers for pushing the legislation.
"We have individuals directly affected by this (kidney cancer), and the cleanup money means jobs for PACE workers," he said. "It's very meaningful to us."
Also Thursday, the Senate passed the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, including $103 million for Paducah plant cleanup besides the $18 million. It now goes to a House-Senate conference committee.
The bill includes an amendment by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate, to set up direct planning and budgetary communications between the Paducah plant and the Department of Energy's assistant secretary of environmental management in Washington, D.C.
The change would eliminate going through DOE's Oak Ridge, Tenn., operations office, a layer of bureaucracy that has been "one of the constant frustrations" in keeping plant cleanup on track, he said.
said the bill has $24 million for lock work at Kentucky Dam; $41 million
for the Olmsted locks and dam; and $6.9 million for operation and maintenance
of Barkley Dam and Lake Barkley.
UF-6 exposure contributes both uranium and fluoride exposure to kidney, and both are connected to kidney damage and cancer.
For UF-6 exposure the fluorine atoms are 1,000 times the uranium.