WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced that the entire Senate unanimously passed a resolution that designated October 30, 2019, as National Day of Remembrance for workers who helped develop and support the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
The Day of Remembrance honors Americans who supported the nation’s nuclear efforts from World War II through the Cold War, as well as workers in nuclear weapons programs today. Nuclear workers across the country continue this heroic legacy to advance nuclear power, nuclear medicine and other technology that continue to make our lives better and keep our country safe.
“The men and women who helped build the country’s first nuclear weapons and who mined and milled uranium made a critical contribution to our national defense,” Udall said. “During the Cold War, thousands of New Mexicans sacrificed their health – and in many cases, even their lives – in this effort. I’m proud to pay tribute to the miners, millers, maintenance workers, scientists, and support staff in New Mexico and across the country whose sacrifice has too often gone unheralded. Last summer, we had a breakthrough in recognizing what some of these uranium miners and mill workers, their families, and so many others have endured – and I was proud to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the need to expand the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act program to include many of those who were left out of the program. We will not give up until those hurt by this nation’s nuclear weapons activities are fully compensated.”
“New Mexico has a long and storied history of contributing to our national security and energy needs, including communities that were essential to the mining and processing of uranium during the Cold War,” said Heinrich. “I’m proud we've been able to pass this resolution that honors the incredible contributions of workers in New Mexico and across the country who quietly sacrificed to keep us safe. I will continue to fight to make good on our responsibility to compensate them so that they can receive the care, medical assistance, and justice they deserve.”
Tens of thousands of people have worked in the nuclear weapons programs since World War II at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs in New Mexico and many of those became sick due to exposure from toxic or radioactive materials in an era where scientific understanding and worker protections were inadequate. To provide compensation to DOE workers, Congress enacted the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) in October 2000.
The resolution also recognizes those who worked in uranium mines and mills that supported the Cold War efforts, some of whom are covered by the separate Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). Udall and Heinrich have also introduced bipartisan legislation to expand restitution for New Mexicans and others who have been affected by exposure to radiation during the development and testing of nuclear weapons in the Cold War by seeking amendments to RECA. The bill would provide medical benefits and other compensation to the post-1971 uranium miners and to the people affected by testing in New Mexico, the Pacific islands and throughout the West who are experiencing health problems due to radiation exposure.