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Introduction Of The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendment Of 2010 -- Hon. Ben Ray LujÁn

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. LUJÁN. Madam Speaker, I am proud to introduce the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendment of 2010. More than 50 years ago, Americans throughout the Southwest took jobs mining and refining raw uranium. These individuals, looking to provide for their families and creating a stable future for their children, are an important part of the history of the 20th Century and the Cold War. Unfortunately, they were unknowingly endangering their own lives by working in poorly ventilated mine shafts with little to no protective equipment. After they left work, they returned home to their families where their clothes, covered in yellow cake uranium, were washed along with that of their loved ones.

* Sadly, the pursuit of the American Dream ended with tragedy for many of the miners exposed to uranium. Many of them fell ill from the radiation they were exposed to at work in the mines. Some people who had never stepped foot in a mine fell victim to the same illnesses due to wind patterns that carried this dangerous source of energy. As these Americans mined for a resource vital to the Nation's security, too many of them made the ultimate sacrifice.

* This Congress now has the opportunity to right this wrong. By extending the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to Americans exposed to radioactive uranium by wind patterns or after the current cutoff in 1971 or those with newly recognized conditions, we can finally come to terms with the dark legacy of America's nuclear policy. Too many RECA claims by my constituents in New Mexico as well as by those throughout the Southwest and in Guam are denied by the government because they lacked documentation from decades before. This legislation makes it easier for people to access the compensation they deserve.

* The Americans who worked in uranium mines were serving our Nation every day, but were unaware of the extreme danger they were in. It is time to recognize these heroes of the Cold War and provide them with fair and equitable compensation for their suffering. We can never fully compensate these Americans for what they have lost--there is no compensation for the loss of a loved one. More than 50 years later, too many of these Americans are no longer with us. We have ignored their plight for too long. It is time to correct this long overdue wrong for those still with us.

* I encourage my colleagues to consider and support this legislation.

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