Bipartisan Congressional Hearing about Proposed Amendments to Radiation Exposure Compensation Act


Asking to be treated the same as others who are covered by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), the Trinity Downwinders and Post’71 Uranium Workers testified on Wednesday before the bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during the long-awaited hearing, in Washington, DC.  Tina Cordova, with the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, testified about the public health and environmental disaster caused by the first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity site in south central New Mexico.  Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez testified about the on-going public health and environmental impacts to their communities from uranium mining, milling, hauling of uranium, and abandoned uranium mines.  They both spoke about the lack of support from the federal government in its failure to warn the people and workers, the health impacts from the overexposure to radiation, and the lack of medical clinics in their rural areas.  Vice President Nez asked for federal cleanup of the additional 300 open uranium mines and establishment of oncology clinics in rural areas.  They both asked the Committee to include the Trinity Downwinders and the Uranium Workers who worked after 1971 in the RECA program.  They asked for fairness.  See their written testimony at:


Senator Tom Udall, of New Mexico, was the first witness.  He described his early work in the mid-1970s with his father, Stewart Udall, to bring lawsuits on behalf of the Uranium Workers.

Senator Mike Crapo, of Idaho, served as Acting Chair of the hearing.  Senator Cory Booker, of New Jersey, served as the Ranking Member.  During the hearing, other members joined.  These included the Chair of Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, as well as Senators Ted Cruz, of Texas; Kamala Harris, of California; and Richard Blumenthal, of New York.

The Chair, Senator Grassley, asked those at the witness panel about suggestions they may have about the process to apply for RECA.  Because those that testified have not applied for RECA, there was a limited response.  However, the Chair’s questions leads one to assume that the Committee is getting ready to move the bill to the next step, which is mark-up of the legislation, a process where the bill is edited, or revised.   

At the end of the hearing, Senator Cory Booker, Ranking Member of the Committee, announced that he will add his name as a co-sponsor to the legislation.

After the hearing, Representative Ben Ray Lujan requested that the House Judiciary Committee hold a hearing about the proposed amendments.

Nevertheless, the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s retirement may impact the Senate Judiciary Committee’s schedule, as it is charged with confirming Supreme Court justices.


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