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US House shelves Radiation Exposure Compensation Act renewal

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Congress, Guam | 1 comment

The United States House of Representatives Committee on Rules killed an effort by Delegate James Moylan (R) of Guam to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have renewed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). The amendment would have included states like Missouri that were previously not covered by RECA and would have expanded compensation to Guanamanians.

RECA, which expired on June 7, was crucial to providing victims of radiation with resources to fight illnesses they may have procured from radiation caused by nuclear weapon tests.

From 1945 to 1962, the US government conducted almost 200 nuclear weapon tests, exposing Americans to uranium through mining and radiation from the tests.  Dozens of individuals sued the government on claims that they were not informed of the hazards, leading Congress to pass RECA 1990. The act provided up to $100,000 for downwinders, those who lived downwind of the test sites; uranium miners; and transporters who contracted serious illnesses and were living in the included states.

However, the program failed to include victims of radiation from other areas, including Utah and Missouri.  Beyond states, territories including Guam were overlooked by RECA, despite being affected by nuclear radiation from tests on Bikini Atoll in the nearby Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. The decades-long release of radiation led to high rates of cancer among the residents of Guam. 

In a press release, Moylan said that delaying compensation for the victims can have severe consequences, as they may be unable to pay rising medical bills associated with treatment for their condition, adding that the delay “perpetuates the injustice and neglect towards the victims.” 

In 2022, Congress extended RECA, though Guam was not included. Moylan originally pushed for the House of Representatives to include a RECA renewal and expansion in the NDAA law for fiscal year 2024 only to see negotiators in the House cut the measure from the final law when it passed in December 2023. Moylan and other Representatives fell back on their standalone legislation, urging House leadership to approve the Radiation Exposure Compensation Reauthorization Act (RECRA), which passed the Senate this March.  

Moylan added that “The delay undermines trust in the government’s commitment to righting past wrongs and providing justice for all citizens,” urging leadership to “at least support the efforts through the amendment in the NDAA,” and affirming, “We will continue this fight until the job gets done.” 

Apprehension stems from the program’s price tag, as the reauthorization would cost $50 billion in funding, providing $100,000 to applicants affected by illnesses from radiation exposure. With RECA “dead on arrival,” Moylan, along with eight representatives from Arizona, Missouri, Nevada, and New Mexico, again attempted to pass a bipartisan amendment to the NDAA for fiscal year 2025, only to see the House Rules Committee vote to rule the amendment out of order before it could be considered by the full House because of the cost concerns. Moylan asserted that he would continue to advocate for a renewal of RECA, noting the senators will attempt to include the amendment during NDAA negotiations in the upper chamber. Moylan added that he would introduce amendments in the upcoming Farm Bill, a veterans omnibus bill, and other appropriations and authorization bills. He highlighted, “The fact that members are still talking about a RECA expansion, or that no measure excluding Guam is on the table, symbolizes that we aren’t far from this expansion becoming a reality.”



Sanjana Dhanwantri

Sanjana Dhanwantri

Sanjana Dhanwantri is a junior at Edgemont High School in Westchester, NY. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs and hopes for a career in this field. Her hobbies include baking as well as drawing and reading. Sanjana is a Federal Affairs Intern Correspondent at Pasquines.

1 Comment

  1. Rosemarie Russell

    As a child in NM when testing took place. Living in Utah I have met many affected by the testing in NV. This is long overdue.


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