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New legislation has been introduced to extend support for Utah downwinders

Some people in Utah are still feeling the effects of radiation exposure from above ground nuclear testing in Nevada during the cold war. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA, was put in place to address these problems created by the government. 

Under RECA, eligible people receive $50,000 in compensation, but the bill is expiring, and some people like Mary Dickson said it was never enough in the first place.


“It was never comprehensive enough. It was always limited geographically, and so we've been fighting actually ever since, we've been trying to get it expanded,” Dickson said.


Dickson is a downwinder, or someone who was affected by nuclear fallout radiation carried downwind. She says the situation for her and other downwinders is urgent.


“People are dying,” Dickson said. “Literally they're dying, like there are fewer downwinders every passing year.”


RECA will expire next July, but new legislation has been introduced to extend it. The new legislation would also give more compensation, and cover more diseases and communities. Utah Congressman Burgess Owens, a co-sponsor on the bill, said there are too many Utahns that have been left behind for too long, and Dickson said some might not even know they have been left behind.


“And people always say, well, how many people are downwinders? And you know, there's absolutely no way of knowing, because nobody predicted really where that fallout went and how many people were harmed,” Dickson said.


Owens said Utah cannot afford to not let this legislation pass, and Dickson agreed.


“They need to do the right thing,” Dickson said. “It's just imperative that they do the right thing and do it before it's too late.”


Emma Feuz is a senior at Utah State University majoring in broadcast journalism with minors in sociology and political science. She grew up in Evanston, Wyoming where, just like Utah State, the sagebrush also grows. Emma found her love of writing at an early age and slowly discovered her interest in all things audio and visual throughout her years in school. She is excited to put those passions to use at UPR. When school isn't taking up her time, Emma loves longboarding, cheering on the Denver Broncos, and cleaning the sink at Angies.