Long overlooked cleanup crews have been offered compensatory payouts more than six decades after nuclear contamination incidents at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s (AECL) Chalk River Laboratories. The newly released federal budget includes $22 million to be dispersed over the next two fiscal years to “recognize” former AECL workers who responded to radiation leakage mishaps in 1952 and 1958.
The program is to be modelled on a circa 2008 federal initiative, which offered ex-gratia payments of $24,000 to Canadian military veterans who had been exposed to documented radiation risks through their participation in nuclear weapons testing or deployment to assist in the two Chalk River cleanup operations. It was estimated that about 200 military personnel had participated in the latter exercises.
The budget document confirms the newly announced program is meant “to provide similar recognition to those Atomic Energy of Canada Limited employees who worked to clean up these dangerous incidents and protect Canadians”. Natural Resources Canada has been designated to establish the recognition program, which is to receive a budget allocation of $7 million in 2021-22 and $15 million in 2022-23.
Even the youngest qualifying candidates for recognition are likely to be in their mid to late 80s now.