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Issue Position: Nuclear Weapons and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2011

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The federal government told the public it was safe from nuclear weapons testing when, in fact, it knew there were risks and only scheduled testing when prevailing winds blew the fallout in the least populated direction, which was southern Utah.

The U.S. conducted over 900 domestic nuclear weapons test, both atmospheric and underground, at the Nevada Test Site from 1951 until 1992. Many who were exposed to high levels of radioactive fallout--commonly known as "downwinders"--lived in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Idaho and other Western states. A 1997 National Cancer Institute Study found that fallout also traveled across the country, with some counties in Kansas, New York, Iowa and Vermont receiving high levels of radioactive fallout.

After years of denial the government ultimately admitted culpability for its deception, following Congressional hearings in the 1980s. Additional pressure resulted in passage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which among other things paid financial awards to victims. Matheson supports full funding for RECA and has helped lead the fight to expand it. Legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate to expand and equalize the compensation provided to "downwinders", uranium miners, millers and ore haulers, whose health and lives were sacrificed as our country fought the Cold War.


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