WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced that they have renewed efforts 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 reintroducing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) joined Udall and Heinrich in introducing the bill that would expand compensation eligibility to more areas of New Mexico, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, and Utah.
The RECA program provides compensation only to the miners, millers and ore transporters who supplied uranium for the government's nuclear program between 1942 until 1971, when the federal government stopped purchasing uranium, and residents of a limited number of counties who lived downwind from the Nevada Test Site between 1951 to 1962. Since his time in the House of Representatives, Udall has been pushing to expand RECA in order to 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.
“During the Cold War, many New Mexicans and others across the West sacrificed their health and safety for our nation. While we can't undo the damage and suffering, it's long past time for the federal government to provide care and fair compensation for the Americans who developed cancer and other illnesses after working in uranium mines or being inadvertently exposed to radiation from nuclear bomb testing,” Udall said. “This bill is about fairness for the victims downwind of the Trinity test site in New Mexico, the former uranium miners and their families in the Four Corners region, and other victims across the West who have been left out of the original law but deserve recognition and compensation for their hardships."
"Families who lived in and near the Tularosa Basin at the time of the Trinity Test, uranium mill workers, and uranium miners continue to cope with serious health problems due to exposure to radioactive nuclear material,” Heinrich said. “Congress needs to pass the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments to provide medical assistance and compensation to those who bore the health costs of our nation’s nuclear history. I will continue to fight for the justice these communities deserve.”
The bipartisan coalition of senators also introduced a resolution marking January 27, 2017 as a national day of remembrance for those affected downwind from the above-ground nuclear weapons testing to raise awareness and encourage participation in commemorating those suffering from radiation exposure.