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From 1945 to 1962, the U.S. government conducted more than 200 above-ground nuclear tests. Radiation spread for thousands of miles.  

Surrounding communities were  not warned  of the danger. Those exposed to nuclear fallout are still dealing with the deadly consequences of these detonations today. Few have been compensated.  

Advocates from downwind communities stand in front of U.S. Captiol
Downwinders traveled to Washington, DC to lobby Congress for nuclear testing compensation.

Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) in 1990 to help victims of nuclear testing and uranium mining. But victims, known as “downwinders,” in highly irradiated places like Idaho, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Guam have never been able to apply for this critical support.  

Thanks to the persistent advocacy of downwinders and their allies— including FCNL advocates —we are beginning to see some progress. Congress  renewed the existing RECA program  earlier this year, ensuring that it would continue to be available to those currently covered by the law. Then, on Sept. 8, a top federal official  publicly acknowledged the government’s role in exposing thousands of New Mexico residents to cancer-causing radiation for the first time.  

Last week, FCNL’s nuclear disarmament and Pentagon spending team—Allen Hester and Vlad Salas Moreno—accompanied victims of nuclear testing as they met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Together they called on Congress to extend and expand RECA.

Advocates from downwind communities met with Rep. Veronica Escobar's staff
Advocates met with staff from Rep. Veronica Escobar’s (TX-16) office.

The RECA Amendments Act (H.R. 5338) would expand eligibility to more impacted people and extend the program for 19 years. It would be a significant step toward acknowledging and redressing the full scope of harm caused by U.S. nuclear testing and uranium mining. For people with radiation-related cancers, this compensation can make the difference in getting the medical care they need. 

Frontline communities are making their voices heard loud and clear. We must fulfill our commitment to the downwinders, uranium workers, and atomic veterans whose health was sacrificed decades ago for our government’s nuclear weapons program.


Jessie Palatucci

Jessie Palatucci

Director of Digital Communications

Jessie Palatucci served as FCNL’s director of digital communications from 2018-2024. In that role she oversaw FCNL’s digital advocacy program and web communications. She wrote extensively for FCNL’s digital publications and communicated with advocates throughout the U.S.