A new bill has been introduced in Congress to strengthen the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to cover people working in uranium mines or living downwind from nuclear weapons tests. U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján and Mike Crapo of Idaho introduced bipartisan legislation designed to strengthen the act in the U.S. Senate while U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House. Earlier this year, Luján testified in a key House subcommittee hearing on the urgency of passing updated legislation. The bill would update the current program by expanding the geographic downwinder eligibility to include then-residents of New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho and Montana.
This bill would expand eligibility for certain individuals working in uranium mines, mills or transporting uranium ore. It would also increase the amount of compensation an individual may receive and extend the program another 19 years following enactment. The program is scheduled to expire in 2022. Updates made to this version of the bill include an expanded list of radiation-related cancers deemed eligible for compensation, added cost-savings for those attempting to file a claim, and improved date ranges for downwinder eligibility. “Former uranium miners who are sick and dying, and downwind communities whose air and water were poisoned, deserve to be treated fairly by their government,” said Luján. “For over a decade, I’ve been fighting alongside impacted communities to extend and expand RECA. This is about justice and doing what’s right, and there’s no time to waste.”