Senate Passes Udall-Heinrich Resolution Honoring Nuclear Weapons Workers

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced Senate passage of a bipartisan resolution, with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and others, to designate October 30, 2018 as the 10th National Day of Remembrance to honor the thousands of New Mexicans and Americans who helped develop, support, and maintain the nation’s nuclear weapons efforts during the Cold War.

The full text of the resolution is available HERE.

“During the Cold War, thousands of New Mexicans sacrificed their health – and in many cases, even their lives – to bolster the nation’s nuclear weapons efforts and to support the national defense,” Udall said. “I am proud that, for the 10th consecutive year, the Senate has passed this resolution 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. We must continue to work to honor these workers, and others who were hurt by nuclear weapons activities during the Cold War, by ensuring that they are fully compensated for hardship that they have endured in service to our nation.”

“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. Udall testified on the need for the legislation in a key Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year.