Marylia Kelley, Livermore

Let’s begin with the facts. In 2000, Congress passed a law to enable nuclear-weapons workers to receive compensation for cancer and other illnesses due to on-the-job exposure to radiation and toxic materials. It’s called the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act.

To date 2,664 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees have filed for compensation. A Tri-Valley CAREs staff attorney helps current and former LLNL employees obtain recompense, a small modicum of justice for ruined health and untimely death.

The Department of Energy has concurred in court with the National Academy of Sciences that “there is no safe level of radiation exposure. Every exposure no matter how small carries with it some risk of an adverse health effect.”

The bottom line is that LLNL’s nuclear-weapons research involving radioactive materials poses risks to workers, the public, and the environment in which we all live. LLNL describes the 50-mile radius around the laboratory as the directly affected area. Seven million of us live within that radius.

On this basis, I wrote a letter to The Independent suggesting that community members get involved in a new environmental review process. That review is at its beginning stage, called “scoping,” and public comment is currently being accepted on what topics the document should consider. Folks can still send comments to LLNLSWEIS@nnsa.doe.gov.

Apparently, letter writer Tom Ramos takes issue with those facts. In addition to castigating me personally, he wrote several paragraphs on the simple fact that some radioactive elements exist in nature. Most of us learned that in elementary school. I know I did. Tom then tells us, “… for God’s sake, live with it.”

His admonition misses the point. LLNL has released harmful radioactive materials into our air, land and water, including plutonium (manmade in a nuclear reactor), tritium (radioactive hydrogen, also made in a reactor), and others.

Past LLNL documents list more than a million curies of airborne radiation released from its operations. Radioactive leakages can also be found in soils and groundwater at LLNL’s main site in Livermore and Site 300 near Tracy.

Now, LLNL is undertaking a review that will authorize activities for the next 15 years or more. Again, I call on community members to become involved. Your voice matters.