Radiation Exposure Compensation Act expires


The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act that provided financial compensation for atomic test downwinders in three states and pre-1971 uranium miners, expired on June 10 after attempts to extend as well as expand the bill to include more states and affected communities were killed by the Republican House leadership. Despite passing the Senate with bi-partisan support, House Speaker Mike Johnson refused to offer the expanded version of RECA by the June 7 deadline after pulling an extension-only version of the bill. There is a small chance a separate RECA expansion amendment could be introduced although Republicans are likely to kill it as before. Proponents of RECA expansion described the Republican inaction as an “egregious injustice” and “a travesty”.

RECA, which will continue to process on-going claims and any new ones received by June 10, 2024, only considers atomic test downwinders in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah and uranium miners working before 1971. The expanded version of RECA would have included parts of Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico and Guam, and all areas of currently included Nevada, Arizona and Utah as well as uranium miners working after 1971. Astonishingly, those impacted by the very first atomic test — Trinity, on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico — have never been included under RECA.

The expanded version of RECA would also have extended compensation to more types of uranium workers to better cover workers who suffer from exposure-related illnesses; expanded the number of compensable illnesses that are not covered under the current RECA program; increased the amount of compensation to reflect the costs of care and inflation; and provided health care benefits and cancer screenings.

Tina Cordova, a  2023 Nuclear-Free Future Award winner and leader of the New Mexico-based  Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, said the decision by Republican House leadership to end RECA was crushing. “It’s hard for people to remain hopeful,” she said. “We’ve been doing this work for 19 years.”

Campaigners had worked tirelessly for RECA expansion, making frequent trips to Capitol Hill, especially in recent weeks when they held press conferences (pictured) and lobbied Johnson and other Republicans.

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