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Senators want to expand compensation

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People who became ill from working in uranium mines are among those who would be affected

By Sue M. Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE — A bipartisan group of U.S. senators from western states wants to expand federal compensation for people who became ill from working in uranium mines, living near debris left from mining or living near atomic tests from the 1940s into the ‘60s.

The measure, introduced Monday, would broaden who’s eligible for compensation, expand the downwind exposure area to include seven states and fund a study of health impacts on families of uranium workers and people living near uranium development.

“As the U.S. built up its Cold War nuclear arsenal ... many Americans paid the price through their health,” the measure’s prime sponsor, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Tuesday.

Senate staffers could not said how many people might potentially be covered by the proposed amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, or RECA.

The bill would add all of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Utah to areas defined as downwind from atomic tests.

The proposed update also would cover people employed in uranium mines and mills after 1971 through 1990. The law currently does not cover workers after 1971, when the federal government stopped buying uranium.