Still no vote in US Congress as RECA expiry deadline approaches


The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which provides crucial compensation for many of those unknowingly exposed to radiation from US nuclear weapons tests and suffer certain radiation related illnesses is set to expire on 7 June 2024, unless the U.S. Congress votes to extend it. Organizers from affected communities are calling on the House of Representatives to call a vote on Bill S.3853 to send the legislation to the President to expand and extend the Act urgently.

Photo: Tina Cordova, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, speaks in New York in December 2023. Credit: ICAN l Darren Ornitz.

Passed by Congress in 1990, RECA offers one-time compensation packages to some people exposed to radiation whether through fallout from nuclear test explosions carried out by the US, based on geographic, temporal and medical conditions, participation in Manhattan Project-era nuclear weapons work, and certain uranium miners. RECA must be extended by 7 June, before it lapses.

With the expiry of this programme in sight, and following extensive advocacy and pressure from frontline communities, the US Senate passed Bill 3853 that would expand and reauthorize the program for an additional six years, with strong bipartisan support on 7 March 2024.

Crucially, the new bill will also expand the scope of compensation to include more people affected by US nuclear weapons, including the first US nuclear test in New Mexico - the downwinders, workers in the uranium mining industry after 1971 and communities affected by Cold War-era nuclear waste in Alaska, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. This is a much needed victory for the groups who have been pushing for decades.

The bill must now be approved by the U.S House of Representatives and then signed into law by the U.S President, before RECA expires. But as of June 5, 2024, the vote in the House of Representatives has not yet been called. Groups of affected communities and civil society across the US are putting out a call to their elected representatives to call on the Speaker of the House Mike Johnson to call a vote urgently, and to vote yes. President Joe Biden has stated that he would sign the bill into law if it reached his desk.