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U.S. lawmakers drum up support for Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

Jonny Coker
A protester at the Trinity nuclear test site in April.

Expansion of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, also known as RECA, would bring eligibility for compensation to previously excluded groups in the U.S., including New Mexico downwinders and post-1971 uranium miners. The amendment passed the Senate by a 61-37 vote in July.

At a press conference, U.S. Senator for New Mexico Ben Ray Luján said that he’s confident RECA’s expansion will make it to the final version of the defense bill thanks to bipartisan support of the amendment.

“We can help more families. We can recognize those with the respect they have earned, whether they were in those mines working for national security purposes, or living in communities where this testing took place in the United States, we can and we will get this done,” he said.

Tina Cordova, founder of the Tularosa Downwinders Consortium, said that she’s proud that victims from across the nation have stood together in solidarity.

“This is our history. This is the legacy of the nuclear development and testing that took place in our country during the Cold War and before. And it’s time for justice,” she said. “For 13 years we have had bills introduced in the U.S. Congress, and this is the closest we’ve ever been. 13 years, never a vote on the Senate or House floor.”

For the RECA expansion to pass, the amendment must be approved by a House-Senate conference committee in order to be on the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.
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