During the Cold War and Race to Space, thousands of civilian employees at Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) participated in projects crucial to our nation's global leadership in science and technology. Some of the projects were relevant to our nuclear defense. Under contract with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC, Department of Energy's predecessor agency) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), North American Aviation (NAA) personnel contributed to what was then considered to be cutting-edge advancements in nuclear and rocketry development. From testing rocket engines destined for the Moon to developing nuclear reactors to propel spacecraft and many other experimental projects, SSFL personnel existed in a hazardous work environment in proximity to unprecedented waste disposal. As a result, many NAA personnel were exposed to toxic chemicals and radiation, often without their knowledge or consent. In some cases, such exposures led to health consequences.
In 2000, Congress enacted the Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) to compensate sick workers of the nuclear complex. In some cases, the traditional definition of "nuclear worker" may be misleading, since at some DOE sites across the country, some employees did not perform jobs that would readily identify them with direct handling of nuclear material for weapons manufacturing purposes, yet they were in harm's way nonetheless. Workers may qualify for EEOICPA consideration without knowing it, since they do not readily identify with the term, "nuclear worker" or do not know that their job duties were carried out in what is now considered to be a "covered area" as defined by EEOICPA. Additionally, incomplete facility history provided by DOE about AEC operations at SSFL has resulted in the exclusion of many workers from EEOICPA, who should qualify for eligibility and consideration under the legislation.
AEC-DOE history at SSFL is well documented. It is time correct errors excluding workers that are deserving of a fair shake under this program, and to acknowledge contributions made by the unsung heroes of the atomic age and Race to Space. TheAeroSpace.org works to raise awareness of the role SSFL North American Aviation Space & Information Division Rocketdyne personnel of Areas I, II and III made to the Cold War, and invites you to sign our petition to Congress toward this effort. We support sharing information and working with others to correct the historical record, connect personnel with advocates, and ensure that EEOICPA functions as it was intended. Looking for answers to the part you played in our nation's nuclear history? Contact us - We might be able to help, or connect you with someone who can.