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Western Governors Back Bills To Compensate More Victims Of Cold War Weapons Testing

Military personnel watch a nuclear weapons test in Nevada in 1951.
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Military personnel watch a nuclear weapons test in Nevada in 1951.

Governors of Western states have signed letters supporting a pair of bills that would compensate more people who were exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons testing.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill, which would update the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include more areas across the West. Crapo has been sponsoring versions of the bill since 2005.

“He’s not gonna give up on this,” said Melanie Baucom, Crapo’s press secretary. Currently, she said, “the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act only provides coverage for victims living in certain counties in Utah, Nevada and Arizona.”

The proposed legislation would expand the definition of who can get compensated for suffering from certain cancers and other diseases related to radiation by adding Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Colorado to the mix. It would also increase the amount of compensation a person can receive. 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests occurred between 1945 and 1962.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Rae Ellen Bichell is a reporter for NPR's Science Desk. She first came to NPR in 2013 as a Kroc fellow and has since reported Web and radio stories on biomedical research, global health, and basic science. She won a 2016 Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award from the Foundation for Biomedical Research. After graduating from Yale University, she spent two years in Helsinki, Finland, as a freelance reporter and Fulbright grantee.
Rae Ellen Bichell
I cover the Rocky Mountain West, with a focus on land and water management, growth in the expanding west, issues facing the rural west, and western culture and heritage. I joined KUNC in January 2018 as part of a new regional collaboration between stations in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Please send along your thoughts/ideas/questions!
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