‘Nothing would have protected us.’ Utah Downwinders oppose return of nuclear testing

Photo courtesy the University of Utah Downwinders of Utah Archive (https://lib.utah.edu/services/geospatial/downwinders/)

Utah Downwinders joined the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and Rep. Ben Mcadams (D-Utah) on Monday to oppose potential U.S. plans to resume nuclear weapons testing and rally support for the congressman’s bill to expand compensation for Downwinders.

July 6th, 2020 marked 58 years since the explosion of a 104-kiloton bomb by the Atomic Energy Commission at the Nevada National Security Site. The explosion left behind a massive crater and a radioactive cloud that traveled over Utah and several other states.

The fallout from nuclear weapons testing that began at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s resulted in ongoing health problems– such as cancers, leukemia, and lymphoma– for Downwinders that persist to this day.

“When the fallout spread across the United States, no one told us we were at risk,” said Mary Dickson, a Downwinder and writer, at Monday’s press event. “There were no masks that would have protected us. Nothing would have protected us.”

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) provides monetary compensation for people with specified diseases as a result of radiation exposure from nuclear testing.

But, Rep. McAdams pointed out that this compensation is limited. “No one in Salt Lake, Davis or Weber Counties, or anyone in Idaho, Wyoming or Montana back then is eligible to receive compensation for fallout-related cancers.”

Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments was sponsored by New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Luján. Rep. McAdams co-sponsored the bill that would expand compensation to Downwinders who lived in all Utah counties and to 11 other states.

“Utah families are still suffering and dying as a result of health effects from nuclear tests conducted decades ago,” said McAdams in a press release.  “We have not yet compensated thousands of Utahns injured by their own government, who told them there was ‘no danger’ from nuclear weapons tests.  Radiation from nuclear tests have proved to be poisonous to our health and environment. Our government must fully atone for its mistakes of the past and make restitution to those who were harmed.”

The RECA trust fund was set to expire in 2022. The bill would extend the fund through 2045.

McAdams also supported the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act, which has been introduced by two Nevada representatives and would prevent the Trump administration from restarting explosive nuclear weapons testing.


Published July 2020: https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/nothing-would-have-protected-us-utah-downwinders-oppose-return-of-nuclear-testing/

Featured photo courtesy the University of Utah Downwinders of Utah Archive (https://lib.utah.edu/services/geospatial/downwinders/)

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