June 26, 2018

Udall to Fight for Justice for Victims of Radiation Exposure in Key Senate Hearing

In long-awaited Senate hearing, Udall will call for committee to pass bipartisan legislation to expand RECA to include Tularosa downwinders, post-1971 uranium workers

WASHINGTON – In a major step forward in the fight for justice for victims of radiation exposure, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) will testify tomorrow in a key Senate hearing on the need to enact his legislation to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) and provide compensation to all New Mexicans, Native Americans, and families throughout the country affected by exposure to radiation during the Cold War. The hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee will be held eight years after Udall originally requested a hearing on 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. Udall successfully advocated for representatives of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium and Navajo Nation – home to many of the post-1971 miners – to offer testimony for the committee during tomorrow’s hearing.

Udall has fought for many years to expand RECA to cover all victims of radiation exposure, including the Tularosa downwinders and the post-1971 miners and millers who were left out of the initial RECA legislation. Udall, along with U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and others, has introduced bipartisan legislation, S. 197, to amend RECA to expand compensation for victims of radiation exposure in New Mexico as well as several Western states and Guam. Udall’s bill builds on the efforts of Udall's late father, former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, who represented downwinders 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.

“Tomorrow’s hearing represents a key step forward for the victims of radiation exposure who have been unjustly denied compensation for decades,” Udall said. “Many in New Mexico and across the West unknowingly sacrificed their health and even their lives to national efforts to develop a Cold War nuclear arsenal during the mid-20th century. And from the very beginning, the federal government has refused to take responsibility. While we can never undo the years of suffering and illness caused by radiation exposure, we must do all that we can to ensure these victims and their families are recognized and made whole. Congress must act to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include key populations left out from the original version, including the Trinity downwinders and the post-1971 miners. Tomorrow will mark eight years and two days since I first called for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee on this issue, and I hope this hearing will move us closer to closing a sad chapter in our history and bringing justice to the victims of radiation exposure.”

In last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Udall and Heinrich successfully fought to include an amendment to express that it is the Sense of Congress that all victims of radiation exposure should be compensated.

The witnesses at tomorrow’s hearing, entitled “Examining the Eligibility Requirements for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program to Ensure all Downwinders Receive Coverage,” include:
-U.S. Senator Tom Udall, New Mexico
-Tina Cordova, Co-Founder, Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium
-Jonathan Nez, Vice President, Navajo Nation
-Eltona Henderson, Director, Idaho Downwinders
-Robert Celestial, President, Pacific Association for Radiation Survivors

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
WHAT: Udall to Fight for Justice for Victims of Radiation Exposure in Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Examining the Eligibility Requirements for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program to Ensure all Downwinders Receive Coverage
TIME: 8 a.m. MT / 10 a.m. ET
WHERE: Dirksen Senate Office Building 226
WATCH LIVE: The hearing will be live-streamed HERE.