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House passes McAdams amendment to block funding for nuclear weapons testing

By Connor Richards daily Herald - | Jul 21, 2020
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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 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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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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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 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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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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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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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

The United States House of Representatives on Monday passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, to block federal funding for future nuclear weapons testing.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would “prohibit any funding for new nuclear testing in FY21,” according to a description of McAdams’ amendment.

“Explosive nuclear testing is not necessary to ensure that our stockpile remains safe, and nothing in this amendment would change that,” McAdams told his colleagues in the House on Monday. “Explosive nuclear testing causes irreparable harm to human health and to our environment, and jeopardizes the U.S. leadership role on nuclear nonproliferation.”

The Democratic Utah congressman put forward the amendment following reports that President Donald Trump’s administration was considering resuming nuclear weapons testing explosions. The last nuclear test in the U.S. was an underground explosion in Nevada in 1992, according to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

“Thousands of Utahns are still dealing with trauma inflicted by bombs exploded from decades past, leaving a legacy of illness, suffering and death,” McAdams said in a press release Tuesday. “Why would we ever go down that path again?

“The U.S. maintains the most effective and capable nuclear deterrent in the world,” the congressman continued. “We have done so while observing a moratorium on explosive nuclear testing for the past three decades.”

McAdams’ amendment to the defense appropriations bill passed 227-179, almost entirely along party lines; only two Republicans voted in favor of the amendment and only one Democrat voted against it.

Utah’s three Republican congressmen, Rep. John Curtis, Rep. Chris Stewart and Rep. Rob Bishop, all voted against the amendment to block nuclear weapons testing.

The amendment is one of multiple recent efforts by McAdams to address nuclear testing in the U.S. and its effect on public health.

Earlier this month, McAdams signed on to a bill that would expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA, which provides compensation to uranium miners and “downwinders” who have been exposed to radiation linked to various cancers, including leukemia, thyroid cancer and lung and liver cancer.

The bill, introduced and sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., would expand eligibility for RECA compensation to the entire state of Utah, as well as 11 other states near historic nuclear testing sites, and extend the RECA trust fund, which is set to expire in 2022, to 2045.

“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 during a press conference in West Valley City on July 6, the 58-year anniversary of an underground nuclear blast at the Nevada Test Site that McAdams said shot clouds of radioactive debris over Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota and other states.

Additionally, McAdams blocked nuclear testing spending from being included in an Energy and Water Development appropriations bill.

In a July 1 letter to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-OH, who is chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water, McAdams asked that the committee include language in the 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 exposure, leading to thousands of premature deaths,” wrote McAdams. “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.”

That language was added to the bill and approved by a House committee on July 13, according to McAdams.

The U.S. Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act currently includes $10 million for the purpose of preparing for nuclear weapons testing, the press release from McAdams said.

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