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Nuclear emissions not cause of cancer, jury decides

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A U.S. district court jury sided with former Hanford nuclear reservation contractors Wednesday, finding that Cold War emissions did not cause a Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, woman's thyroid cancer.

Shannon Rhodes was "devastated" by the verdict at her second trial, her lawyer, Richard Eymann said. "She went through the whole first trial and that wound up as a hung jury."

In May, federal jurors deadlocked over whether Rhodes' health problems were caused by emissions during the early days of Cold War production of nuclear weapons. The retrial began Nov. 7.

"Shannon said this wasn't about her," Eymann said. "It was about all the downwinders, many of whom already passed away with different cancers."

Kevin Van Wart, a Chicago lawyer who represented former Hanford contractors General Electric Co., E.I. du Pont de Nemours Co. and UNC Nuclear Inc. in the case, said the jury was able to separate scientific evidence from sympathy for Rhodes' illness.

"We continue to extend our sympathies to Mrs. Rhodes. We congratulate the jury for being able to separate a very natural sympathy . . . from the question of causation," he said.

The verdict shows that claims of health damage from small doses of radioactive iodine do not have a scientific basis, Van Wart said.

The defendants have made a global settlement offer that would pay claimants who meet criteria between $25,000-$150,000, he said. Plaintiff lawyers have declined to take the offer to their clients, he said.

In the first trial, Rhodes, 64, was one of six so-called "bellwether" plaintiffs, who were considered representatives of thousands of people who contend their health was damaged by Hanford releases.