The House of Representatives has passed Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) two-year extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) ensuring that those Americans harmed by the nation’s early nuclear program can be compensated. Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-04) championed the RECA in the House. The United States Senate unanimously passed the Lee measure in April.
Following House passage, Sen. Lee said, “When the government harms people, victims should be able to receive compensation. Downwinders and others harmed by the nation’s early atomic program often suffer the consequences of exposure decades after the fact. The passage of my RECA extension is a statement saying the United States government is not abandoning these victims and communities.”
In 1990, RECA became law, providing a one-time cash benefit to certain persons who participated in atomic weapons testing or lived near nuclear test sites during periods of above-ground atomic weapons testing between 1951 and 1992. To date, RECA has awarded over $2.4 billion in benefits to more than 38,000 claimants in Nevada, Utah, and elsewhere. It was previously scheduled to sunset in July of this year. This bill pushes the expiration to 2024.
Sen. Lee has long advocated that Americans within geographic areas that have been found to be affected by atomic weapons testing should be eligible for compensation. This extension comes as a part of legislative negotiation on his more comprehensive Downwinders Act which would expand eligibility for compensation to new geographic areas and extend application eligibility by another ten years.