Critical funding for radiation victims is caught in a race against time March 26, 2024

Photo courtesy Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium

In June of this year, the existing Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) is set to expire.  RECA is the  law providing compensation to people whose health has been impacted by American nuclear weapons development and testing. PSR has been supporting a bipartisan effort led by Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) to extend RECA beyond this deadline and expand compensation to include additional groups of people and geographic areas impacted by nuclear weapons. 

On February 29, Senator Hawley introduced the Radiation Exposure Compensation Reauthorization Act S. 3853. On March 5, the vote on the Senate floor approached, PSR sent out an action alert to our members. Thank you to PSR members who generated over 1,000 messages to Senators in response to that alert. On March 6 the Biden Administration publicly announced: “The Administration supports S. 3853 and has made it a priority to address the health-related harms associated with environmental exposures to toxins. On March 7, in an important first step toward justice, the United States Senate voted 69 to 30 in favor of S. 3853 to accomplish this.

So now, with the Senate and White House solidly behind it, the focus turns to the House of Representatives, where this critical legislation is in a race against time. Physicians for Social Responsibility will continue to stand with our neighbors, coalition partners, and impacted communities to push for support from the House.

One prominent partner is the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium. Tularosa Basin is directly downwind of the site of the 18.6 kiloton Trinity test explosion that was memorably depicted in the film, Oppenheimer. Because the test “gadget” (higher yield than the Hiroshima bomb) detonated a mere 100 feet from the desert floor, it produced a massive plume of radioactive fallout.

On November 3 of last year, PSR bestowed a Health Hero award upon Tina Cordova, a seventh generation native New Mexican and co-founder of the Consortium (on the left in the picture). In accepting the award, Ms. Cordova said: “Our government made mistakes and they have to atone for that. The time has come for them to do that….This is not a partisan issue. Exposure to radiation is not discerning, it affects the young, the old, the male, the female, the black and the white, the Republican and the Democrat alike.”

To extend compensation to downwinders, it is vitally important that the House of Representatives votes to extend and expand RECA. Click here to contact your U.S. Representative.

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