Advocates, lawmakers renew push for RECA to include Trinity Downwinders
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On July 16, 1945, the U.S. secretly tested the world’s first nuclear weapon in New Mexico.
Now known as the Trinity Test, it poisoned thousands of nearby New Mexicans.
Last year, Congress extended the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, first passed in 1990. The bill now expires in 2024 and it still hasn’t covered some New Mexicans.
RECA has paid $2.5 billion to uranium workers in 11 states and downwinders in parts of three states.
It didn’t include the Tularosa Basin Downwinders affected by the Trinity Test.
In 2005, Tina Cordova co-founded the Tularosa Basin Downwinder Consortium. Since then, Cordova has helped get legislation to Congress eight times, pushing for New Mexicans’ inclusion.
“The way the bill is currently written wouldn’t only add New Mexico as a downwind state. It would add, for the first time ever, places like Idaho, Montana and Colorado. Then, it would add all of Arizona, all of Nevada and all of Utah,” Cordova explained.
When she testified in Congress in 2018, it had 46 total cosponsors in the House and the Senate.
By 2021, it had 101 cosponsors and passed in committee. Then, it died in the Senate.
Now, U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) is sponsoring a bill in its ninth attempt.
“A lot of my colleagues will say they won’t vote for it because it’s too expensive,” Sen. Lujan said, “but I ask them, go face those constituents who are dying of cancer or other chronic illnesses.”
Cordova is one of those constituents. She is the fourth of five generations with cancer since the Trinity Test.
The fifth is her 23-year-old niece Mackenzie.
“She’s going to college in California and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in November. Her life has been upended. That was the cancer I had when I was 39 and the first thing they asked me was, ‘When were you exposed to radiation?’,” Tina Cordova said.
The bill also expands compensation to people who worked in New Mexican uranium mines from 1972 to 1990.
It also boosts compensation for uranium workers, onsite participants and downwinders from a lump sum of $100,000, $75,000 and $50,000, respectively, to $150,000 for each group.
This compensation applies to the families of those affected, like the Cordova family.
Tina Cordova also says this will help expand access to radiation exposure screening for New Mexicans.
Read the full bill text here: