Members of Utah’s congressional delegation have sponsored the reauthorization of a bill that compensates Utahns and residents of other states who were exposed to radiation because of nuclear testing, who are often referred to as “downwinders.”

In the Senate, Utah Sen. Mike Lee sponsored the bill, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which was co-sponsored by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. In the House, Utah Rep. Celeste Maloy introduced the bill, with Rep. Burgess Owens co-sponsoring.

Compensation would be extended for an additional two years under the extension in the legislation.

What is RECA?

RECA was enacted in 1990 to support those “who lived near nuclear weapons test sites and worked in the uranium industry,” per KSL.

The bill provides “lump sum compensation awards” for individuals who’ve allegedly contracted diseases from radiation exposure, according to a statement from Maloy’s office. It focuses on those who lived “downwind of atomic testing sites between 1951 and 1992.″

“Many Utahns were harmed by the federal government’s aboveground testing of nuclear weapons during the early atomic program, and decades later they, along with their families, are still paying a high price,” said Maloy, according to the statement.


She added in the statement, “RECA was created as a way for the federal government to partially compensate Americans who have developed certain cancers and diseases as a result of being downwind from nuclear testing and exposed to radiation.”

Opinion: Too many ‘downwinders’ are still suffering

The program has reportedly awarded more than $2.5 billion “to more than 39,000 claimants,” per the statement. And KSL added that RECA “covers downwinders in 10 counties in southern and central Utah.”

A similar bill was passed

Last month, the U.S. Senate voted and passed, with bipartisan support, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2024 — a bill sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., which would “double” what downwinders are eligible for, as previously reported by the Deseret News.

However, Lee and Romney both voted against the bill, as reported KSL. Romney claimed the bill “drastically” expands on the program’s scope of eligibility, while a spokesperson for Lee stated the bill — which comes with a $50 billion price tag — extends it to “include wide geographic areas it was not intended to cover, without sufficient data.”

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