Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) led their Senate colleagues in a bipartisan letter urging Congressional Leadership to extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) program in any upcoming spending package. The letter urges extension before the program sunsets later this year. The RECA program, originally passed in 1990, compensates individuals exposed to radiation from aboveground nuclear weapons tests, as well as those who mined, milled and transported uranium.
“Between 1945 and 1992, the United States conducted 206 above-ground nuclear weapons tests, releasing harmful radioactive material into the air and blanketing parts of the United States, including New Mexico, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Montana, and Guam. Communities and individuals living near these test sites, known as ‘downwinders,’ suffer health effects related to the radiation exposure from the tests,” the Senators wrote.
“As we continue to work on a bipartisan solution to improve and expand the RECA program, Congress must act to extend RECA before it expires. With many still sick and dying from the impact of radiation exposure, we must act now to ensure affected Americans are eligible to receive the compensation they need,” the letter continues.
Crapo and Luján introduced bipartisan legislation in September 2021 designed to strengthen the RECA program and compensate uranium workers and those living downwind from above-ground atomic weapons tests who were exposed to radiation. While the original RECA program only covered parts of Utah, Nevada and Arizona, this legislation would expand the geographic downwinder eligibility to include then-residents of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Guam.
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.
Additional signers of the letter include U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mark Kelly (D-Arizona), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) and Michael Bennet (D-Colorado).
The full text of the letter can be found HERE.