Thanks to the support of people like you, in 2022, Congress extended the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) for two more years. While the extension was a positive step towards preserving the program, it fell short both in its time frame, and in failing to expand the program to other victims of the nuclear industry. Unfortunately, after 2024, downwinders, uranium miners, millers, and transporters, and military personnel linked to the testing, will no longer be eligible for RECA compensation. It’s crucial that we continue to raise awareness and advocate for the fair treatment of those impacted by the nuclear weapons and uranium industry by passing the proposed legislation.
Downwinders are individuals who have been exposed to radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing. They are often located in the downwind direction from nuclear testing facilities and have experienced various health problems associated with their exposure. Downwinders are generally concerned with the long-term effects of nuclear exposures on their health and the environment. Many have organized advocacy groups to raise awareness about the dangers of radiation exposure and to push for improved safety standards and regulations. Right now, only the southern half of Utah is eligible to apply for downwinder compensation, despite all of Utah having been in the fallout wind pattern during testing.
What is RECA?
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) is a federal program established in 1990 to provide monetary compensation to individuals who contracted cancer or other diseases as a result of their exposure to radiation from atmospheric nuclear testing or from the mining, milling, and transportation of ore related to testing and uranium mining activities during the Cold War The act reflects decades of hard work by downwinders, Navajo Nation members, and other advocates to ensure that the federal government provides partial restitution for the devastating health impacts experienced by some of the US citizens affected by the nuclear weapons and uranium production industries.
There are several issues with the current Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. One of the main issues is that it only compensates specific individuals who were exposed to radiation from atomic testing at the Nevada Test Site. This excludes those who were exposed to radiation fallout outside of the specified areas or in the many other industries associated with uranium mining and milling. In Utah, only five counties are covered by RECA. This means that the rest of Utah is ineligible for compensation, even though studies have shown that all of Utah was affected. Additionally, the compensation amounts are often far too low to adequately compensate for the full extent of the harm that has been caused–the current RECA amendments would increase this amount. Overall, there is a need for a more comprehensive and fair compensation system for individuals who have suffered from radiation exposure from the nuclear weapons or the uranium industry.
If you think you might meet the current eligibility requirements of RECA, including being a uranium miner, miller, transporter, or resident of a designated downwinder area during specific time periods between 1951 and 1958, or in 1962, you can still apply for the current program. Compensable diseases include leukemia, multiple myeloma, lymphomas, primary cancers including thyroid, pancreas, stomach, brain, urinary bladder, lung, colon, and ovary. It is important to note that the current RECA program does not cover some diseases, like chronic lymphocytic leukemia or renal diseases, which would be added with the passing of these amendments.
You can find more details on the program here or contact the The Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP) or Intermountain Health’s Cancer Clinic, where you can find RECA specialists to help you in this process. It is important to note that the process may take some time and patience, but seeking compensation for the harm caused by radiation exposure is worth the effort.
If you have more questions, you can contact Intermountain Health’s RECA counselors at 435-251-4760 or the RECA Program directly by telephone at 1-800-729-RECP (1-800-729-7327), or by e-mail at Civil.RECA@usdoj.gov.
Health effects of nuclear testing
Exposure to radiation from nuclear testing to radioactive materials like uranium can have severe health effects on humans. Studies have shown that exposure to radiation can increase the risk of developing several types of cancers, particularly leukemia. Other health effects can include birth defects, infertility, and thyroid disease. Additionally, those who work in uranium mines or other facilities that handle radioactive materials may be at risk of acute radiation sickness, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. It is important for individuals who may have been exposed to nuclear testing or ionizing radiation to seek medical attention and to take steps to minimize their exposure in the future.
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was created to provide compensation to individuals who were exposed to radiation during their employment within the nuclear weapons and uranium industry or those who lived downwind of testing sites. Right now, the current program does not cover all of Utah, even though our state was one of the hardest hit from radioactive fallout. Additionally, some groups, such as Native American uranium miners, have been disproportionately affected by radiation exposure but have faced barriers in accessing compensation. For example, the required “proof” of employment or original documents from the 1940s may no longer be accessible when the original companies have long since closed. These equity issues highlight the need for continued evaluation and improvement of the RECA program to ensure fair and just compensation for all those affected by radiation exposure from the nuclear weapons and uranium industry.
Extend and Expand
The proposed RECA Amendments of 2023 added to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 as amendment S.Amdt.1058 seek to prolong the RECA program for 19 years and to broaden its reach to include more communities affected by radiation exposure in several states, including all of Utah, that received substantial amounts of fallout from nuclear testing. The extension will also expand the uranium worker eligibility period to better cover exposed workers, and include additional categories of uranium workers. This expansion is crucial in addressing the harm that has been inflicted upon Americans for decades, which still persists to this day. The expansion would expand the number of compensable illnesses, provide more healthcare benefits, and increase the amount of financial compensation to reflect the increasing costs of care to awardees. By extending and expanding RECA, affected individuals and families in these communities would gain access to much-needed medical care through increased and expanded funding, leading to significant improvements in their lives. We now need you to contact your Representative in support of the passage of the amendment.
Fill out this action alert to encourage your Representative to sign on to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.