Online presentation to focus on new bill seeking to extend uranium exposure compensation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The Navajo Uranium Workers Program will give an update this week on the U.S. Senate bill that proposes amending the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and provide information about filing claims through the program.

The act, known as RECA, provides compensation to individuals who developed certain cancers and other serious diseases as a result of their exposure to radiation released during their employment in the uranium industry or during above-ground nuclear weapons tests.

This includes hundreds of members of the Navajo Nation who worked for companies that extracted and processed uranium on the tribal land.

Residents in Cameron, Arizona are warned about an abandoned uranium mine. The sign was seen on Sept. 16 during a visit to the community by U.S. Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz., and Navajo Nation officials.

Under the current federal statute, RECA is set to end on July 10. That end date is the reason why the office is holding the presentation.

"Clients need to file now because processing of claim forms at the U.S. Department of Justice level takes approximately three to four months to process, if all documents are available," Dewayne Johnson, director of the Navajo Uranium Workers Program, said.

The Navajo Uranium Workers Program in Shiprock is an entity under the tribal government and has the task of assisting tribal members in filing compensation claims for RECA.

More:Salt River Project, Navajo Nation partner on new solar power facility in Arizona

The bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate proposes to extend the compensation program for another 19 years following enactment and broaden the scope of coverage.

S.B. 2798 was introduced in September 2021 but remains in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A related bill is in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"As for the RECA amendment initiative, it is uncertain at this point if the amendment will be passed by U.S. Congress or not," Johnson said. "At the present moment, the RECA amendment could go either way – yay or nay."

More:Navajo Nation Council to consider helium development bill at winter session

He added a lobbyist working with the Navajo Nation Washington Office will talk about the status of the Senate bill during the update.

The live presentation will start at 10 a.m. on Feb. 9 on YouTube under the Navajo Uranium Workers Program name.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.