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Navajo Uranium Workers Program calls for more compensation

atomicallyspeaking via Flickr
Creative Commons
A uranium mine in Grants, NM

Members of the Navajo Nation and others want to extend and expand a law that helps people contaminated by uranium mines and nuclear testing.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990 provides redress to people who became ill after working in uranium mines and nuclear test sites or living downwind of the Nevada nuclear test zone. Many of those people lived or live on the Navajo Nation.

"Approximately 30 million tons of uranium ore was extracted from Navajo lands to support America's nuclear activities, you know, making weapons," said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in an online event organized by the Navajo Uranium Workers Program on February 9. "And to this day, we still have over 500 uranium mines still open, that create health issues for people, especially those that worked in these uranium mines."

Under the 1990 Act, more than two billion dollars have been awarded to more than 34,000 claimants. It is due to expire in July.

The Navajo Uranium Workers Program wants to extend the program's duration. They also want to increase the compensation available and expand the scope to include people affected by uranium over a longer period of time, and people living near nuclear test zones in New Mexico

Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández and Senator Ben Ray Luján have proposed legislation to this end in Washington DC, but face challenges getting enough votes in the Senate.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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