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Senate Passes Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

MAR 12, 2024
The bill expands the scope of the fund, which is set to expire this summer unless Congress acts.
Jacob Taylor headshot
Senior Editor for Science Policy, FYI American Institute of Physics
The fireball from a nuclear detonation.jpg

One of the detonations associated with Operation Plumbbob in Nevada in 1957.

(National Archives)

By a 69-30 vote, the Senate passed legislation last week that would expand the types of atmospheric nuclear testing and nuclear material exposure covered by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act as well as the time window for damage claims. Specifically, people exposed to atmospheric nuclear tests in Nevada and the Pacific from 1958 to 1962 would now be eligible for damage claims.

The current law limits claims relating to atmospheric testing to parts of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah; the bill would expand that area to include all of those states as well as Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Guam. The bill also expands the list of uranium mining-related jobs that qualify for compensation, notably adding workers involved in remediation efforts at uranium mines and mills.

It extends the coverage to include mines that operated through 1990, instead of through 1971. In addition, the bill creates a new claim eligibility for people affected by Manhattan Project waste in Missouri, Tennessee, Alaska, and Kentucky.

The compensation fund itself is set to expire in June, following a previous extension that Congress passed in 2022. The new legislation would extend the fund to 2030. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who has frequently drawn attention to the enduring effects of radiological contamination in his state. The Biden administration has endorsed the legislation.

This news brief originally appeared in FYI’s newsletter for the week of March 11.

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