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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

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

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.

Rae Ellen Bichell was a reporter for KUNC and the Mountain West News Bureau from 2018 to 2020.
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