Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico) and U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-New Mexico) and James Moylan (R-Guam) reintroduced bipartisan legislation designed to strengthen the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to compensate individuals exposed to radiation during the Cold War era while working in uranium mines or living downwind from atomic weapons tests.
Last year, Senators Crapo and Luján and Representative Leger Fernández were successful in securing an extension of the RECA program for two years, allowing individuals more time to apply for the compensation they deserve. Without this extension, the RECA program was scheduled to sunset last July.
“Last year, Senator Luján and I championed and passed legislation to extend the RECA program for two years,” said Crapo. “While the extension was critical to providing compensation downwinders rightfully deserve, we can do more to help the Idahoans and Americans who have suffered the health consequences of exposure to fallout from nuclear weapons testing.”
“Last year’s victory to extend RECA showed the bipartisan support behind this effort. Now it’s time to build on that momentum and continue our movement for justice and compensation for New Mexico’s downwinders and uranium workers,” said Luján. “Through no fault of their own, these workers and nearby communities were exposed to radiation as part of our national defense effort, impacting generations to come without providing the same relief available to other communities included under RECA. That’s why I’m reintroducing bipartisan legislation to strengthen and expand RECA to do right by all of those who sacrificed in service of our national security.”
“Imagine having radioactive waste fall down like dirty snow on your homes and communities causing cancer and disease. Then think about the despair when you learn that the US government compensated other communities exposed to radiation during the nuclear testing program but not yours,” said Leger Fernández. “Our bipartisan RECA Amendments of 2023 updates RECA so that it compensates everyone including New Mexicans who suffered this terrible injustice. That includes post ’71 uranium miners and downwinders who’ve been calling out for help for too long. It will also extend the program so it does not expire in July 2024. We must pass this bill and get people the compensation they deserve.”
“I thank my colleagues, Congresswoman Leger Fernandez, and Senator Ben Ray Luján for their work on this issue. Ensuring that those who have been affected by radiation exposure are properly compensated is of the utmost importance, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation and help ease the pains of those who have been exposed to toxic levels of radiation,” said Moylan.
Crapo chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the RECA program in June 2018. Tona Henderson, of Emmett, Idaho, and head of the Idaho Downwinders organization, provided testimony in the hearing and paid tribute to those in her community who have passed away due to radiation-related illnesses. Her birthplace of Gem County, Idaho, received the third-highest amount of fallout in the nation according to a 1997 National Cancer Institute study.
"A heartfelt thank you to the Senate and House for reintroducing our Downwinder Bill,” Henderson said. “The time has come to get this Bill passed and compensate the Downwinders that have been waiting for 70+ years, dying in silence."
Bill text available HERE.