Uranium workers and others exposed to radiation from Cold War-era nuclear weapons tests will finally get the compensation they were promised.
A Senate and House conference committee inserted language in a supplemental appropriations bill Thursday that would guarantee payment of $31.8 million of outstanding IOUs in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) trust fund.
The supplemental bill still must be approved by the full House and Senate, but that is expected to be just a formality.
The RECA program was created in 1990 to provide cash payments of $100,000 to uranium miners and $50,000 to "downwinders" -- those residents sickened by their exposure to radioactive fallout caused by nuclear weapons testing.
Last year, the act was expanded to cover more people, but no more new money was added.
Many victims were left holding unpaid IOUs. That includes 191 outstanding IOUs worth $10.1 million in Utah alone, plus 71 worth $6.5 million in Colorado, 42 worth $4 million in New Mexico and 68 worth $3.5 million in Nevada.
The Justice Department said it is awaiting final approval of the program and then it will immediately begin to send checks.
Meanwhile, the miners are eligible to receive another $50,000 through the new nuclear weapons industry workers'' compensation program administered by the Department of Labor.
Under that program, $150,000 and related medical expenses are paid to workers who became seriously ill from exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica while working in the nuclear weapons industry for the Department of Energy during the Cold War.
by Virginia Foran