"Downwinders" Ask for Expanded Compensation

"Downwinders" Ask for Expanded Compensation

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Sam Penrod reportingResidents from all over the Southwestern United States, are in St. George tonight. They are asking the federal government for expanded compensation for illnesses they claim are the direct result of nuclear testing in the 50's and 60's

Over the past 13 years, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act has paid 177-million dollars to victims of nuclear testing.

5-thousand Utahns and their families have benefitted. Yet, thousands more so- called downwinders, say they suffered equal exposure and illnesses. But they remain ineligible for any government help.

A candlelight vigil is underway now here at the St. George Cemetery to honor victims of radiation exposure. This after a day of hearings before a panel of doctors and scientists that attracted hundreds of people, hoping they can be compensated for illnesses they believe came from exposure to radiation during nuclear testing.

These images of atomic mushroom clouds billowing from the Nevada desert in the 1950's and 60's have become a symbol of the downwinders movement. People who believe radiation from nuclear weapons testing fell in their neighborhoods, causing cancer and other illnesses.

Jay Truman Director, "Downwinders": "An understanding that the fallout didn't stop at a two or three barb wire fence line in a couple of counties way down in southern Utah. But extended where it extended.

Today in St. George, a committee empaneled by the federal government is examining if the government's 1990 compensation act should be expanded to more geographic locations and include more illnesses that may be the result of radiation exposure.

Dave Timothy Hearing Attendee: I've had many surgeries, many treatments, cobalt, radiation treatments, I've not got too much left to be taken out it's pretty well all gone.

Dave Timothy grew up in the Uinta basin-and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 18 that he blames on nuclear testing. He cannot apply for any help-because Duchesne county is not part of the Compensation act.

Others want answers about the testing more than they want compensation.

Elisha Belmont Hearing Attendee: "Who in Washington decided that the large number of people who have died and who are dying, were expendible."

And Defense Department discussions about studying a new generation of nuclear weapons is attracting attention of groups who fear that could mean a resumption of nuclear testing.

Vanessa Pierce/"Heal Utah": We do know the consequences of that radioactive fallout, and yet we are still considering authorizing nuclear weapons testing, and that to me is an affront to the memories of those who have died and suffered because of those initial tests.

The committee's final report is not expected for another year. It will then go to Congress which would have to make a decision if it will appropriate more money to go more victims.

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