WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) met with several senators and representatives from western states to discuss next steps for the recently extended Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
“I met with fellow members of Congress to discuss how to improve RECA so we can better support Utahns adversely impacted by nuclear testing and uranium mining,” Moore explained.
The Republican group that convened here at the Capitol included Moore; senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Mitt Romney (R-UT); and representatives Yvette Herrell (R-AZ), Burgess Owens (R-UT), John Curtis (R-UT) and Ken Buck (R-CO).
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was signed into law on Oct. 15, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. It was intended to provide compensation for workers in open-pit or underground uranium mines, people who were on-site during atmospheric atomic weapons tests and so-called Downwinders.
The law had been scheduled to expire this year. Thanks to a bipartisan effort by Congress in June, however, RECA has been extended for two years.
Owens called RECA a lifeline for Downwinders in Utah’s 4th Congressional District who lived in the shadow of radiation exposure and are now suffering life-altering diseases.
“This year’s bipartisan two-year extension of RECA was just the beginning,” he promised. “Americans are still suffering the consequences of our country’s foray into nuclear testing.
“I am committed to righting these wrongs and ensuring victims receive the support they deserve.”
The United States detonated the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Test Site near Alamogordo, NM on July 16, 1945.
During a program that continued until 1992, the U.S. conducted more than 1,000 tests that released radioactive material into the atmosphere.
That program included atmospheric tests between 1951 and 1958 as well as during the period of July 7 to 17, 1962.
Mining in the United States produced more than 400 million pounds of uranium concentrate between 1949 and 1971.
“Wyoming uranium miners heroically helped our country win the Cold War,” Lummis said.
“Sadly,” she added, “due to radiation exposure, many of them are now facing health struggles associated with their time in the mines.
“American miners deserve a timely and fair solution. We are committed to delivering just that.”
During its more than 30-year history, RECA provided one-time cash payments to people who developed cancer or other specified diseases after being exposed to radiation from atomic weapons testing as well as uranium mining, milling or transporting.
Benefit payouts so far included $75,000 each to 5,293 to people who were on-site during nuclear tests; $50,000 each to 25,386 Downwinders; and $100,000 to 8,386 uranium miners, millers or ore transporters.
“I will continue to engage (with my colleagues) on a solution to provide assistance to the hard-working individuals suffering from illnesses resulting from the American nuclear program,” Moore pledged.