McAdams announces opposition to nuclear testing, hopes to extend compensation for downwinders

Ben McAdams stands with his family as he speaks at a news conference, Nov. 19, 2018, in Millcreek, Utah. | File photo by Steve Griffin/The Deseret News via Associated Press, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, announced Monday that he would be sponsoring an extension of the Radiation Exposure Control Act as well as opposing the possibility of more explosive nuclear weapons testing in the United States. McAdams said that next year’s House spending bill covering the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration would prohibit the use of money to prepare or conduct any nuclear testing.

This July 16, 1945, file photo shows an aerial view after the first atomic explosion at Trinity Test Site, N.M. Western governors say atmospheric nuclear weapons testing exposed more states and more people to radiation fallout and resulting cancers and other diseases than the federal government recognizes. | Photo courtesy of The Associated Press, St. George News

The RECA act was originally passed in 1990 and compensated people who are known as “downwinders,” those who worked on the sites of the nuclear testing and the Uranium Miners, Millers and Ore Transporters. The act covered nine counties in Utah as well as areas of Arizona and Nevada, where the nuclear testing took place.

In a Facebook live video with Mary Dickson, former KUED on-air host and downwinder, McAdams said that there were over 1,000 nuclear tests, with the last one being conducted in 1992. He added that the fallout of the nuclear testing not only impacted Southern Utah, but all of Utah, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and elsewhere in the United States.

The act is set to expire in 2022, but McAdams is sponsoring an extension that would go through 2045 as well as broaden the areas included in the act.

“In Utah, we’ve seen increases in certain types of cancers — myeloma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer — much of that is due to some of this nuclear weapons testing that happened in Nevada,” McAdams said in a Facebook live video. “RECA, the compensation act, is set to expire in 2022. The impacts are still here, so this would extend it through 2045, so those people who are impacted can receive compensation. Nothing is going to replace the loss of life or a cancer diagnosis, but at the very least, for the harm caused by our government, they should receive some compensation to help pay their medical bills, lost of income and other things.”

A press release from McAdams mentioned the Trump Administration’s recent announcement of plans to resume nuclear testing.

“Any plan to resume nuclear weapons tests would again put us ‘downwind’ of deadly radioactive fallout, even as the government has still not atoned for the devastating consequences from earlier nuclear weapons tests,” McAdams said in the press release. “I thank Chairwoman Kaptur for this important step, and I will continue to fight until this prohibition is signed into law.”

Dickson also spoke out about the issue with the congressman at Monday’s press conference.

“People are still getting sick, their cancers are coming back,” Dickson said. “We are living with health consequences that haven’t gone away. The way I view it is we were all deemed expendable. They killed their own in the name of national security, and it’s so important for us to tell our stories and have these opportunities, or they die with us.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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