Congress Must Act on Justice for Victims of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Program in New Year, Science Group Says

Without Action, Radiation Exposure Compensation Program Will Expire in June

Published Dec 14, 2023

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Today, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), after stripping out provisions that would have strengthened the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to ensure victims of U.S. nuclear weapons tests, production and waste have access to health care and compensation to help cover medical debt and other expenses.

The provisions proposed by Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), would have given victims more time to apply for aid by extending the program, which is currently set to expire this summer. The proposed changes to the program also would have extended coverage to additional uranium miners and people downwind of nuclear tests, including those in New Mexico harmed by the first atomic bomb.

“The people sickened by U.S. nuclear weapons activities do not have time to spare waiting for Congress to step up and do the right thing. They are sick now. They need medical care now. They are dying now,” said Lilly Adams, senior outreach coordinator in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Strengthening the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act is urgent and should be the first thing on Congress’ agenda when they return in January. We cannot allow RECA to expire, leaving atomic veterans, hardworking miners, and communities who unknowingly found themselves on the frontlines of the Cold War without care and fair compensation. This wrong has been allowed to fester for nearly 80 years, and it needs to be resolved now. President Biden has said he stands ready to help these communities get the support they need. Stripping RECA from the NDAA was a failure, but the administration and Congress can still make it right in January.”