Radiation exposure victims get extension to compensation law
President Biden on Tuesday signed an extension to a law compensating those impacted by uranium extraction and nuclear weapons testing. Without the extension the program would have expired next month.
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA, was passed in 1990 and allows people who developed cancer or other diseases after radiation exposure, or their surviving family members, to claim compensation.
More than $2.5 billion has been awarded to 39,000 people. Most of those were people who lived downwind of the nuclear weapon testing site in Nevada, known as downwinders, or their families.
And many claimants are from the Navajo Nation. The Nation's president Jonathan Nez said earlier this year that there are 500 uranium mines still open on the reservation.
Representatives of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission traveled to the area in April to discuss the process of closing the mines and decontaminating the land, but that process is likely to take some time.
Congressional Representative Teresa Leger Fernández and Senator Ben Ray Luján proposed the extension to the legislation. In a statement, Luján said that he would continue to seek to extend the legislation so that people in New Mexico affected by the Trinity nuclear test site could also be compensated, and more people who worked in uranium mining. The Act only covers those who worked in uranium mining prior to 1971.
He said, “this fight is not over. The federal government must do right by all Americans whose lives were impacted by radiation exposure in the national defense effort, and I will continue working to expand this program to include all affected downwinders and post-1971 uranium mine workers."
In a statement, Leger Fernández said “New Mexico is sadly no stranger to the health perils associated with uranium mining and nuclear testing. Nearly 77 years after the Trinity Test, our communities still fall ill from radiation exposure." She pledged to keep fighting to extend the legislation.