Atomic Workers

Beginning in 1942, hundreds of thousands of dedicated men and women throughout the United States worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and security of our great nation and the rest of the world. Their mission (code named the Manhattan Project) was to build the first atomic weapon in the midst of World War II. Some of the best U.S. scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, along with their European counterparts including Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard participated in the project. The singular goal in developing this weapon was to put an end to the war, ensuring the safety and freedom of people around the world.

After World War II, the United States continued the development of nuclear weapons. This development including uranium mining, nuclear reactor production and maintenance, and chemical processing. At the height of the Cold War, nearly 600,000 workers in the US were involved in the development of nuclear weapons. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapon production was significantly reduced. The United States began to focus on the storage and decomissioning of its nuclear arms inventory and associated material.

Atomic Weapons Program

In December of 1939, German radiochemists Otto Han and Fritz Strassman discover the process of fission in uranium. In August of 1939, Albert Einstein writes a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, alerting him of the German’s research and informing him of the possibility of Germany developing powerful bombs. Einstein also informs Roosevelt that Germany has stopped the sale of uranium and is actively engaging in uranium research. Later that year on September 1, 1939, Germany invades Poland. World War II begins.

On February 24, 1941, Glenn T. Seaborg’s research group at the University of California at Berkeley discovers plutonium. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. The United States enters the war.

President Roosevelt approves production of the atomic bomb on January 19, 1942. In the summer of that year, the Army Corps of Engineers established the Manhattan Engineer District (later known as the Manhattan Project) to develop and build the atomic bomb. The uranium isotope sepration facilities are built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Plutonium production reactors are built in Hanford, Washington. A weapons laboratory is set up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. After several years of research, development, and testing, the first atomic bomb was secretly detonated in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945.

Just ten days after the bomb was tested, the Allied Forces demanded the surrender of all Japanese forces or else they face “the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces, and the inevitable and utter devastation of the Japanese homeland”. On July 28, Japanese Prime Minister Kantaro Susuki refuses to surrender. 

The gun model uranium bomb code named “Little Boy” is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. The implosion model plutonium bomb, code named “Fat Man” is dropped on Nagasaki, Japan just a few days later on August 9, 1945. Five days later, Japan surrenders aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, ending the war.

In the decades following the war, the United States continued research and development of nuclear weapons until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, signalling the end of the Cold War. 

DOE Worksite Locations

Uranium enrichment began in the United States as part of the World War II Manhattan Project to produce nuclear weapons. The first uranium enrichment operations were set up at what is now the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Tennessee) in 1942. In the 1950’s the U.S. government set up two additional enrichment plants, in Paducah, Kentucky and Piketon, Ohio. Over the years, dozens more research and development facilities were opened and operated across the U.S. from Alaska to Massachusetts.

For over 50 years, hundreds of thousands of workers across the United States dedicated their lives to maintaining national security and advancing the science of technology of nuclear energy. Beyond the initial intent of developing nuclear weapons, much of this work became the basis for the development of nuclear reactors, medical imaging systems (MRI machines), and radiation therapies for various forms of cancer.

EEOICPA White Card Program

The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was enacted in October 2000. Part B of the EEOICPA, effective on July 31, 2001, compensates current or former employees (or their survivors) of the Department of Energy (DOE), its predecessor agencies, and certain of its vendors, contractors and subcontractors, who were diagnosed with a radiogenic cancer, chronic beryllium disease, beryllium sensitivity, or chronic silicosis, as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium, or silica while employed at covered facilities.

Part E of the EEOICPA (enacted October 28, 2004) compensates DOE contractor and subcontractor employees, eligible survivors of such employees, and uranium miners, millers, and ore transporters as defined by RECA Section 5, for any occupational illnesses that are causally linked to toxic exposures in the DOE or mining work environment.

After going through the application and approval process, a EEOICPA medical benefits card (White Card) will be sent out. This card will have the approved patient diagnosis listed on it and will function just like an insurance card. When a patient receives medical care related to the approved diagnosis, these costs are covered under the EEOICPA White Card program.

How We Help Atomic Workers

Thousands of DOE workers have been diagnosed with a variety of radiation related illnesses due to their exposure to uranium, beryllium, or silica at DOE Worksites. Many of them suffer from respiratory problems and have been diagnosed with cancer or chronic illnesses attributable to radiation or toxic chemical exposure. 

At National Specialty Pharmacy, our dedicated White Card program staff has helped thousands of patients get the medications and treatment they need to improve the quality of their lives. If you are a former Atomic Worker with your White Card, we are here to help you. Contact us today.