The clock is ticking: If the US House Judiciary Committee doesn't hold a hearing now and a vote on the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019, the people downwind of the very first US nuclear test will probably never get compensation. Take action now.
Those communities are still living with the fallout from Trinity, the first atomic bomb test, and over 200 similar nuclear weapons tests—and they have never been recognized or compensated for their decades of pain and suffering. Many uranium workers have also been shut out.
In 1990, Congress passed a law meant to compensate victims of atomic bomb testing, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough and will expire in 2022. A bill in the House of Representatives—H.R.3783, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019—would expand compensation more fully to more of those affected by the tests.
But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, hasn’t even scheduled a hearing for the bill yet. The communities that live downwind from nuclear test sites (“Downwinders”) really need our help right now.
The current law compensates residents in parts of Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Arizona who were downwinders from the Nevada Test Site, but it expires in two years. The new law would extend this compensation to downwinders in New Mexico, parts of Idaho, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and to uranium workers who joined the industry after 1971. It would also extend the compensation fund to 2045.
Compensating the Downwinders is especially important now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Because of their exposure to radiation from nuclear tests, Downwinders suffer from more preexisting conditions and are more immunocompromised than average Americans. This makes them more vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 than other populations.