Bipartisan Leaders, Advocates Continue Push for RECA Legislation on National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders

Nambé, N.M. – In recognition of National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders, the lead U.S. Senate and U.S. House sponsors of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendments joined leading advocates to continue the push for Congress to strengthen RECA ahead of the sunset date later this year.


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U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced bipartisan legislation in September 2021 designed to strengthen the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) and compensate uranium workers and those living downwind from atomic weapons tests who were exposed to radiation. Luján has introduced the legislation in each Congress since taking office in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009.

U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández and Burgess Owens (R-Utah) introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2021. Representative Leger Fernández led the committee passage of the legislation in the House Judiciary Committee in December 2021.

“New Mexicans played a pivotal role in America’s nuclear history, and yet many uranium workers and people living downwind of nuclear testing sites continue to be denied justice through the original RECA program. This is unacceptable, and it’s why I have been leading the effort to strengthen and expand RECA over the past decade. On this National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders, I am continuing that push and honoring the lives we have lost from radiation exposure and related health issues,” said Senator Luján. “This is a bipartisan effort, and I will continue raising this issue with Senate leadership to identify a path forward.”

“Today is an important day to remember the far too many innocent victims lost to cancer-related deaths from radiation exposure due to above-ground nuclear weapons testing. Time is running out for those still with us,” said Senator Crapo. “The United States must act now to ensure downwinders are eligible to receive the compensation they deserve.”

“On this National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders, we rededicate ourselves to remedy the injustice and harm suffered by those living in the shadow of the destructive mushroom cloud of the first atomic bomb, every explosion since then and uranium mining for decades after,” said Rep. Leger Fernández. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the advocacy of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders for drawing attention to the communities that were harmed when the government tested nuclear weapons and mined uranium from our lands. I will continue to work collaboratively with the Downwinders, the Senators, and my House colleagues to secure passage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Amendments of 2021 (H.R. 5338) to compensate these communities that have suffered for so long.” 

“Today, we commemorate our nation’s Downwinders, many of whom suffered without compensation for generations, for the harms they endured due to the federal government’s 50+ years of above-ground nuclear weapons testing,” said Rep. Owens. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in support of these Americans and remain committed to righting these wrongs.”

“The Cold War era is long over and historical to most Americans. But it never really ended for the Navajo people, especially those that worked in the mills and mines where uranium was processed to create our nuclear arsenal to help defend our country. To this day, uranium workers and their families still suffer from diseases and conditions directly related to their contribution to defending the United States,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “Our lands, waters, livestock, and wildlife were impacted in sometimes irreparable ways. Navajo people have always supported American democracy and we’ve used our sacred language to help win a war. Navajo people exposed to radiation sacrificed more than we know and many did not live to see their children and grandchildren grow and prosper. We thank Senator Ben Ray Luján for introducing legislation to bring justice to impacted families and communities.”

“On this day I will poignantly reflect on all the people we’ve lost who were Downwinders and be inspired to continue the fight for the Justice that we so deserve and that they never lived long enough to see,” said Tina Cordova, Co-Founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.

“The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act amendments will finally provide compensation to the thousands of uranium workers who labored in the mines after 1971. We sacrificed our health and suffered just as much as the older uranium workers and the downwinders. I see in the paper every week my co-workers dying without compensation. Are they just waiting for us to die off? New Mexico is a sacrifice zone from uranium mines and the Trinity Test. It is past time to make this right. RECA should be expanded and extended immediately,” said Larry King, a former uranium miner from Church Rock on Navajo Nation.  

“As we observe today, National Downwinder Remembrance Day, we pray for all of those that have lost their lives and those that are still suffering from cancer caused by nuclear testing,” said Tona Henderson, Executive Director of Idaho Downwinders.  “We urge the House and Senate to pass our Bills and correct the injustice of the past.”



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