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Utah Rep. Ben McAdams calls for expansion of Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

By Connor Richards daily Herald - | Jul 6, 2020
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Mary Dickson, of Salt Lake City, holds a map showing the spread of radiation via air currents from three nuclear tests in Nevada as she speaks during a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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Members of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, from left, Shea Wickelson, her children Lev, 8, and Otis, 11, and her husband, Paul, talk with U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams before a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. The jars on the table represent different countries, and each sunflower seed inside represents one nuclear warhead that the country possesses. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams looks on as Steve Erickson, of Salt Lake City, speaks during a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams speaks during a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams speaks during a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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Steve Erickson, of Salt Lake City, speaks during a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams looks at a representative display set up by the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons before a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. The jars represent different countries, and each sunflower seed represents one nuclear warhead that the country possesses. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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A photograph and infographic are displayed during a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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Deb Sawyer, of Salt Lake City, speaks during a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams speaks during a press conference concerning efforts to expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West Valley City on Monday, July 6, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, called on Congress on Monday to amend a 1990 law that provides compensation to those who have been exposed to nuclear radiation to expand coverage to include the entire state of Utah.

The Utah congressman held a press conference in West Valley City on the 58-year anniversary of the “Sedan” underground nuclear test in Nevada, a 104-kiloton blast shot 635 feet below the Earth’s surface.

To put that in perspective, McAdams told press conference attendees, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, was only 15 kilotons.

“The Sedan blast sent clouds of radioactive debris … 16,000 feet into the air,” said McAdams. “That contamination traveled over Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, Wyoming; South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky and much of Tennessee.”

McAdams is one of 44 members of Congress, mainly Democrats, who signed on to a bill to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA, a 1990 bill that “provides compensation to individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases as a result of their exposure to radiation released during above-ground nuclear weapons tests or as a result of their exposure to radiation during employment in underground uranium mines,” according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

RECA covers payments for various cancers linked to radiation exposure, McAdams said, including leukemia, thyroid cancer, lung and liver cancer and multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in plasma cells.

In nine southern Utah counties, as well as in parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho and states near nuclear testing sites or uranium mines, workers are qualified for one-time payments of $100,000 while “downwinders” can get $50,000.

“It took decades and many untimely deaths, but RECA finally brought a measure of accountability for the government’s deception of its own citizens about the harm inflicted upon them from nuclear tests,” said McAdams.

But, the congressman continued, RECA didn’t go far enough. He noted that “no one in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis or Weber counties, or anyone in Idaho, Wyoming or Montana … is eligible to receive compensation for fallout-related cancers.”

“Today, we know that RECA falls short of making amends to hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffered illness and death, yet never even got so much as an apology from their government,” McAdams said.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments bill, introduced and sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, R-N.M. , would increase the amount of compensation for uranium exposure to $150,000 and expand eligibility to the entire state of Utah, 11 other states, Guam and the Mariana Islands.

“It also reforms RECA for members of the Navajo Nation, which is still suffering from the effects of both radioactive fallout and exposure to deadly radiation from uranium mines and mills,” McAdams said, noting that the current bill only provides compensation for miners and ore transporters who worked before 1972.

Additionally, the amendments would extend the RECA Trust fund, which is set to expire in 2022, to 2045.

The Democratic congressman also voiced his support for the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing Act (PLANET), a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., that would prevent President Donald Trump from resuming nuclear test explosions. The Washington Post reported on May 22 that the senior Trump administration officials were considering doing so.

“Restarting explosive nuclear tests is both dangerous and unnecessary,” McAdams said Monday. “Both Republican and Democratic administrations have certified every year that our stockpile of nuclear weapons is effective and secure.”

In a letter to Democratic Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur, chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, McAdams urged the subcommittee to include language in its 2021 appropriations bill “that would prohibit the use of funds to conduct or make preparations for any explosive nuclear weapons test.”

“For generations, Utahns have experienced higher rates of cancer and other serious medical conditions due to harmful radiation exposures, leading to thousands of premature deaths,” McAdams wrote in the letter dated Wednesday. “I believe it is imperative that the Energy and Water Subcommittee prohibit additional explosive nuclear testing on U.S. soil and prevent additional harm to our citizens.”

More information about the RECA amendments bill is available at http://congress.gov/bill.

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