ALBUQUERQUE — Victim compensation from the nation’s first atomic bomb test conducted in New Mexico nearly 75 years ago was the subject of a field oversight hearing in Albuquerque Monday.
In 1990, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to provide money and health benefits for uranium miners and people living downwind from nuclear weapons tests who later who developed serious illnesses.
But Tina Cordova, who testified for the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, said those downwind from New Mexico’s Trinity site were excluded from the legislation.
“It has afforded compensation and health-care coverage to other downwinders and some uranium miners, and the people of New Mexico – the downwinders of New Mexico – deserve not one dime more, not one dime less,” Cordova said.
The government has paid out more than $2 billion in claims since 1990.
New Mexico’s senators and House representative have introduced legislation in Congress to amend the legislation to include downwinders of the Trinity site.
From 1945 to 1962, the federal government conducted nearly 200 atomic bomb development tests. The current legislation compensates residents of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah who were exposed to radiation from the Nevada Nuclear Test Site.
If the Compensation Act is amended, Cordova said many victims in New Mexico and the state’s Indian Country, including uranium workers who are living with lung and respiratory diseases, would be included.
“Why are we treated differently? Why are we completely not included?” she asked. “It’s a very well-kept secret that people were harmed and that people have been dying for 74 years now as a result of this.”
In addition to Cordova, Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation, also will testify at the hearing. The current legislation is slated to end on July 9, 2022, while the proposed amendment would extend the compensation fund until 2045.