Western Senators and Members of Congress Convene Working Group to Discuss RECA

September 20, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, several western senators and representatives convened a 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. 

Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) along with Reps. Yvette Herrell (R-NM), Burgess Owens (R-UT), John Curtis (R-UT), Blake Moore (R-UT), and Ken Buck (R-CO) met to discuss RECA reauthorization, and their priorities to ensure constituents negatively impacted by uranium mining receive the care and compensation they have earned. 

“Wyoming uranium miners heroically helped our country win the Cold War, but sadly, due to radiation exposure, are facing healthcare struggles associated with their time in the mines,” said Sen. Lummis. “I am committed to finding a responsible solution to RECA reauthorization that helps compensate miners without bankrupting our country in the process. Thank you to my colleagues for convening today in my office to discuss next steps. American miners deserve a timely and fair solution and we are committed to delivering just that.”

“Today I met with my fellow members of Congress and key stakeholders to discuss how to improve RECA so we can better support Utahns adversely impacted by nuclear testing and uranium mining. I will continue to engage on a solution to provide assistance to the hard-working individuals suffering from illnesses resulting from the American nuclear program,” said Rep. Moore.

“Unfortunately, more and more of my constituents are passing away every day from the side effects of decades-old nuclear testing and uranium mining without the compensation they deserve,” said Rep. Herrell. “Time is of the essence for Congress to take meaningful action to make my constituents whole. I am committed to working with my colleagues from both parties to pass new legislation as soon as possible.”

“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.”

“I am proud to have previously supported extending the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, an important program to support individuals whose health was impacted by atmospheric nuclear testing and uranium mining. It was a pleasure to participate in a discussion with several of my colleagues in the House and Senate, put together by Senator Lummis, to proactively think through how to reach those impacted. These individuals have been a critical part of our country’s national security. We should recognize our role in righting the wrongs caused by the federal government,” said Rep. Curtis.

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.   BACKGROUND:

  • 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 
  • 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.