April 01, 2019

Udall, Heinrich Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand RECA to include Tularosa Downwinders, Post-1971 Uranium Workers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich reintroduced the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019.  The legislation would expand coverage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to cover victims in New Mexico including the Tularosa Downwinders and Post-1971 Uranium Workers, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Guam.  

“Justice is long, long overdue for the New Mexico families and Tribal members who are victims of radiation exposure as a result of the government’s nuclear testing during the Cold War,” said Udall.   “While we can’t undo the years of suffering for these individuals and families, I will not rest until we make sure the many unwilling Cold War victims – including those living downwind of the Trinity test site in New Mexico's Tularosa Basin and post-1971 uranium workers in New Mexico -- and their families are fairly compensated. Providing just compensation to victims of radiation exposure will not erase the years of pain and illness, but it is the least we can do to honor the sacrifice that so many made to keep our nation secure.”

"Congress needs to pass the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments to provide medical assistance and compensation to those who bore the health costs of our nation’s nuclear history. That includes families who lived in and near New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin at the time of the Trinity Test and all of the uranium mill workers and miners who continue to cope with serious health problems due to exposure to radioactive nuclear material. I will continue to fight for the justice these Americans deserve,” said Heinrich.

The bill builds on the efforts of Udall's late father, former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, who represented uranium workers in the courts for many years and laid the groundwork for the original RECA legislation. Udall first introduced legislation to update the RECA law as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and has sponsored Senate legislation since 2010. In a 2018  Senate Judiciary Committee hearingUdall testified on the need to enact this legislation to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) and provide compensation to all New Mexicans, Tribal members, and families throughout the country affected by exposure to radiation during the Cold War. The hearing was held eight years after Udall originally requested a hearing on legislation expanding RECA to cover victims of the government’s nuclear testing, including those living downwind of the Trinity test site in New Mexico's Tularosa Basin and post-1971 uranium workers in Northwestern New Mexico.

The bill would expand eligibility for victims denied government assistance for years of health problems related to radiation exposure from atomic bomb tests in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and uranium mining to support America’s Cold War efforts.  New Mexico, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Guam would be added to existing areas where victims can apply for compensation under the federal RECA program.  At present, only residents of certain counties in Utah, Nevada and Arizona are eligible to apply for benefits.

In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). 

The full text of the bill can be found HERE.