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Schedule puts cleanup workers at risk, report claims

An accelerated cleanup schedule has endangered worker safety and health at the Hanford nuclear waste complex in Washington state, according to a report by the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit group that represents some Hanford workers in legal actions.

The state attorney general's office is studying charges arising from the report, according to an article in The New York Times. According to the report, there were 45 incidents from 2002 through the middle of last year in which 67 workers required medical attention because they were exposed to toxic vapors from underground tanks.

"We will not put at any risk any of our workers for the benefit of a faster cleanup," a spokesman for the Energy Department told The New York Times.

More than 11,000 workers are involved in the cleanup, which costs $2 billion a year, according to the article.

Some workers have claimed that on-site doctors under contract have been reluctant to diagnose illnesses as work-related.

Representative John D. Dingell, (D-Mich.) the ranking minority member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, complained in a recent letter to Energy Secretary Abraham that "in the past, weapons production took priority over health and safety; currently, accelerated cleanup schedules and reduced cleanup budgets are taking priority."

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