Nuclear Attack In Kingman, Arizona - Part 2 of 4 Articles
Feature Story Phoenix Magazine
Submitted by Eleanore Fanire
A magazine in Spain recently ran a feature story on the Downwinders. They called it "America's Chernobyl." So, in Spain, they know, but here in the U.S., most people are clueless about the Downwinders - or that there were catastrophic side effects of the government's aggressive nuclear-testing program after World War II.
Back then, national newsmagazines printed pictures of people sitting on lawn chairs at the test site, their eyes covered with dark glasses, watching the show. Back then, newspapers would reassure the public with pronouncements from the Atomic Energy Commission that the nuclear tests were harmless.
"'Baby' A-Blast May Provide Facts on Defense Against Atomic Attack," the Las Vegas Sun waxed eloquent before a test in March 1955. A few days later, it noted that "fallout on Las Vegas and vicinity following this morning's detonation was very low and without any effects on health."
It would be easy to surmise that the government just didn't know the danger of an atomic bomb, but this country had already used similar bombs in Japan. And even though the public knew very little about the horrors of those bombs - relieved instead that they led to Japan's surrender - those inside the government were well aware of what radiation did to human beings.
Cancer researcher Dr. Alan R. Cantwell Jr. put it this way in a recent magazine article: "In the nuclear arms race, government doctors and scientists brainwashed the public into believing low-dose radiation was not harmful. Some officials even tried to convince people that 'a little radiation is good for you.' But totally ignored was the knowledge that the radiation from nuclear fallout could lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, immune system diseases, reproductive abnormalities, sterility, birth defects and genetic mutations…. The full extent of this radiation damage to the American public during the Cold War years will never be known."
The test site sat in the middle of federal land - in an area without a dense population - and records show that tests were timed so the winds would carry radiation away from Los Angeles. Records also reveal one contemptuous bureaucrat surmising that the site was an area containing "a low-use segment of the population."
Although no one knows for sure, some believe the tests even led to the death of an American icon - John Wayne. His death from lung cancer was attributed to his smoking, but historians have noted that he and 90 other people on the Utah set of The Conqueror in 1954 developed various types of cancer.
Fourteen years ago, the federal government owned up to what it had done, thanks in large part to the work of former Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Wayne Owens. Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which was signed by the first President Bush. In addition to the Downwinders, it compensates workers at the Nevada Test Site and uranium miners.
The legislation states in part: "Congress recognizes that the lives and health of uranium miners and of innocent individuals who lived downwind from the Nevada tests were involuntarily subjected to in-creased risk of injury and disease to serve the national security interest of the United States…. The Congress apologizes on be-half of the Nation to the individuals… and their families for the hardships they have endured."
To date, nearly $660 million has been distributed to almost 16,000 victims and their families. However, not a penny has gone to the Mohave County victims, and it appears they've been left out by an unimaginable mistake - a typo.
Someone back in Washington, D.C., misspelled "Mohave" County, which in Arizona is spelled with an "h." Instead of "Mo-have," it was spelled "Mojave," with a "j," as it is in California. But that California county isn't downwind of the tests, so, therefore…. Although it would seem an easy fix, the typo has become vexing.
"The Department of Justice and President Bush could rectify this," Fanire says with certainty, befuddled why this mistake hasn't been fixed. "I want to tell President Bush he's made an unjust decision."
Prescott Attorney Laura Taylor, who's helped many individuals in other counties file for benefits, says it could be years be-fore Congress revisits those boundaries. She notes that a panel from the National Academy of Science has been holding open forums for the past 18 months with the prospect of expanding the list of covered cancers. As it is written, the compensation act acknowledges leukemia, lung cancer, multiple myeloma and lymphomas, but so many other cancers have shown up with frightening frequency.
For instance, the act now covers ovarian, but not uterine cancer; colon, but not prostate cancer.
The academy is supposed to present its findings to Congress by the end of this year, but Taylor is convinced nothing will change in the compensation program until Congress deals with these new recommendations. No one needs additional statistics to acknowledge what is happening, she argues, and Mohave County needs help now. "To fail to do so," she says, "denies the obvious and gives no hope to those suffering in the greatest numbers.”
NATION HAS COMPENSATED DOWNWINDERS WITH 561 Million
By Thomas Burr
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 09/08/2007
WASHINGTON - The federal government has paid downwinders $561 million since implementing a program in 1992 to compensate residents affected by nuclear tests in the Nevada desert, a new report says.
But the applications for compensation are declining from residents in southern Utah, Nevada and Arizona claiming the tests caused their cancers and other diseases, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Friday. So are the payouts, says the GAO.
About $248 million more will be needed to pay the approved claimants for the life of the program, which ends in 2022, the GAO said. The number of claims the Justice Department predicts to receive will decline steadily from about 1,200 a year in 2007 to fewer than 100 by 2022.
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) has so far paid out more than $1 billion to downwinders, uranium workers and test site employees.
A shrinking number of claims will decrease future funding needs for the Justice Department's administration of the program, according to the report.
Another reason for declining funding needs is a change in the law requiring the Labor Department to pay the claims of uranium miners, millers and ore haulers.
Those people are entitled under the law to larger payments than downwinders.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, who represents nearly all of the areas in Utah enrolled in the program, said it is "all well and good" that RECA ifunctioning "adequately."
But he says the program still may need to be expanded. He joined other lawmakers signing a letter in May asking for the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on allowing all of Utah and other parts of the West to get coverage under the act.
"The more urgent issues are should RECA eligibility be expanded and have we learned the lesson about why we should never again go down the path of nuclear weapons testing," Matheson said in response to the GAO report. "Those are my concerns, and they remain my focus."
About 24,000 people have claimed money under the law, the report says, and about 18,000 have been approved for payment.
The report doesn't detail how many are from Utah.
About 100 open-air nuclear tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site by the U.S. government from 1951-1962, exposing thousands of residents in Nevada, southern Utah and northern Arizona to fallout from the tests. The Limited Test Ban Treaty drove testing underground in 1962. Those tests ceased in 1992 when the United States entered into a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing which continues to the present.
NUCLEAR TEST PAYOUTS
*$1.2 billion total
*$561 million to downwinders
*$455 million to uranium miners
*$100 million to uranium millers
*$80 million to Nevada Test Site participants
Source: Department of Justice, Civil Division
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