WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-04) joined several western senators and representatives to convene a bipartisan working group to discuss the next steps for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), critical legislation to provide healthcare and compensation to aging uranium miners who were exposed to toxic radiation.
“The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act is a lifeline for Downwinders in my district and throughout the West who lived in the shadow of radiation exposure and suffered life-altering diseases,” said Rep. Owens. “This year’s bipartisan 2-year extension of RECA was just the beginning. Americans are still suffering the consequences of our country’s foray into nuclear testing, and I am committed to righting these wrongs and ensuring victims receive the support they deserve.”
Owens joined Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Reps. Yvette Herrell (R-NM), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Randy Weber (R-TX), John Curtis (R-UT), Chris Stewart (R-UT), Blake Moore (R-UT) and Mark Amodei (D-NV) met to discuss RECA reauthorization, and their priorities to ensure constituents negatively impacted by uranium mining receive the care and compensation they have earned.
RECA was scheduled to sunset in 2022, until a two-year extension was passed in June 2022. The program is now scheduled to sunset on June 7, 2024 leaving many miners in need of long-term care in limbo.
- RECA provides one-time cash payments to people who may have developed cancer or other specified diseases after being exposed to radiation from atomic weapons testing, uranium mining, milling, or transporting.
- Those eligible to receive compensation under RECA include:
- Workers who worked in an above-ground or underground uranium mine for at least one year between January 1, 1942 and December 31, 1971 in the following states: Wyoming, Arizona, North Dakota, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, New Mexico and Texas.
- Onsite participants who were present at a test site during at atmospheric atomic weapons test.
- Downwinders, those persons who were present in certain areas north and west of the nuclear testing sites during periods of atmospheric atomic weapons testing.
- RECA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on October 15, 1990.
- Administered by the Department of Justice (DOJ), RECA has awarded over $2.5 billion in benefits to more than 37,000 claimants since 1990.
- All beneficiaries must prove geographic, participation, disease, and exposure requirements to receive the benefit.
- Benefit Payout Groups:
- Onsite Participants – $75,000;
- 5,293 claims submitted to date
- Downwinders – $50,000;
- 25,386 claims submitted to date
- Uranium miners, millers, and ore transporters – $100,000;
- 8,389 claims submitted to date
- Onsite Participants – $75,000;
- On July 16, 1945, the United States detonated the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Test Site near Alamogordo, New Mexico.
- Testing would last until 1992, and the United States, under the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Department of Energy (DOE), conducted 1,054 atomic weapons tests which resulted in radioactive material being released into the atmosphere.
- Atmospheric tests were conducted between January 27, 1951 – October 30, 1958, and between July 7-17, 1962.
- Uranium mining in the United States produced 420 million pounds of uranium concentrate from 1949 until the RECA claims deadline of December 31, 1971.