Bipartisan legislation has been reintroduced in Congress to strengthen the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), improving compensation for people who were exposed to radiation as a result of working in uranium mines or living near sites of nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War. The legislation was introduced recently in the Senate by Sens. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) and Ben Ray Luján (D., N.M.) and in the House by Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D., N.M.) and Del. James Moylan (R., Guam).
Follow-up bill: Originally introduced by Crapo in 2021, S. 2798 was put forward again to follow up on the success that Crapo, Luján, and Fernández had last year in extending the RECA program into 2024. The reintroduced bill, which added Moylan as a sponsor, would extend the program further to cover more communities with former uranium workers and “downwinders” (people who were exposed to radiation because they lived downwind from weapons testing sites). While the original legislation covered people in parts of Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, the bill will now also cover those who lived in Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, and Guam.
Fernández said of the legislation, “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.” (The original RECA, approved by Congress in 1990, covered individuals with lung diseases and other health conditions due to radiation exposure that occurred between 1942 and 1971 only.) She continued, “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.”
Getting it passed: The sponsors plan to build bipartisan support for the legislation in both houses of Congress in order to get it passed and on the desk of President Biden. As the newest sponsor, Del. Moylan said, “Ensuring that those who have been affected by radiation exposure are properly compensated is of the utmost importance, and I look forward to working across the aisle to pass this legislation and help ease the pains of those who have been exposed to toxic levels of radiation.”