Senate Unanimously Passes Udall, Heinrich Resolution Honoring Nation’s Nuclear Weapons Workers, Declares National Day of Remembrance

U.S. SENATE News:

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced Thursday that the Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution to designate Oct. 30, 2020, as National Day of Remembrance for workers who helped develop and support the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

The Day of Remembrance honors American workers who supported the nation’s nuclear weapons efforts from World War II through the Cold War, as well as nuclear program workers today who continue this heroic legacy to advance nuclear power, nuclear medicine, scientific innovation, and other technology that keeps our country safe.

“Today, we honor the thousands of miners, millers, maintenance workers, scientists, support staff, and families in New Mexico and across the country whose sacrifice has too often gone unrecognized,” Udall said. “During the Cold War, thousands of New Mexicans made tremendous sacrifices to build the country’s first nuclear weapons and mine the uranium to protect our national defense. Many of these brave Americans have been left out of programs Congress has designated to care for and compensate nuclear workers including the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act program and the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. While we can never take away the years of pain and suffering these families have endured as a result of their service, we can take action to make them whole. We will never stop fighting to expand these laws until those affected by this nation’s nuclear weapons activities are fairly compensated.”

“This year marks 75 years since workers and scientists in the Manhattan Project completed their mission and entered all of us into the nuclear age,” Heinrich said. “In the decades since, hundreds of thousands more Americans have made great sacrifices and contributions to our national security through our nuclear weapons programs. I am grateful to all those who continue to maintain the safety and security of our nuclear deterrent while also contributing to critical nonproliferation work that can lead us toward a future without nuclear weapons. I also recognize the many atomic workers who are coping with serious health problems due to their exposure to hazardous and radioactive material. I will never stop fighting for the justice and compensation that these atomic workers deserve for their service to our nation.”

Tens of thousands of Americans have worked in the nuclear weapons programs since World War II at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs in New Mexico. Many of these workers became sick due to exposure from toxic or radioactive materials before proper workplace protections and scientific understanding were established. Congress has since enacted the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) in October 2000. 

This resolution additionally provides compensation to those who were exposed in uranium mines and mills during the Cold War, some of whom are covered separately by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). Udall and Heinrich have long pushed to expand the RECA law to compensate not only the workers affected, but those suffering from the effects of radiation during the Cold War by these nuclear weapons facilities.

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