Arizona’s ‘downwinders’, exposed to Cold War nuclear testing, fight for compensation


The federal government created a compensation program for “downwinders”, who lived near the Nevada test site and suffered radiation-related cancers from nuclear explosions. However, unlike residents of Arizona, Nevada, and other parts of Utah, residents of Kingman and lower Moewee counties were never compensated by the federal government.

Residents of Lower Mohave County have no idea why the federal government excluded them from the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990, better known as RECA. Neither lawmakers have fought for years to broaden the program. With RECA expiring in 2022, they say, it is necessary to include residents such as Stephen and his neighbors and relatives.

“We want to make sure that all the families affected are properly recognized and compensated,” said Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Arries, who accompanied Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arise. He expanded the law this year. RECA includes all of Mohave County, as well as Clark County, Nevada, most of which were also excluded from the compensation program.

Stanton said that they suffered because we could advance the US defense systems while we were testing nuclear missiles, and now we should be compensated and compensated to make sure they are recognized Be given.

Stephens spent more than a decade as chairman of the Mowave County Downwinders, sending letters to legislators and collecting personal stories. She hopes that she and other downweeders can see those changes in their lifetimes.

“We fought for so many years,” she said. “I want to solve it.”

The dangers and consequences of nuclear testing were unknown to the public when testing began at the Nevada test site, now known as the Nevada National Security Site. One hundred of the nuclear tests at the site from 1951 to 1962 were above ground.

Stephens said that glimpses or glimpses of heavy mushroom clouds were a form of entertainment. Extension times and dates were advertised in newspapers. Children were given short breaks during school days to stand up and watch the sky turn orange to watch the explosions. In Las Vegas, just 65 miles from the test site, businesses billed the tests as a tourist attraction for viewing from hotel windows.

Stephens recalls that as a teenager in 1953, he, his father, his uncle and his brother rode a horse to Mount Kumbh to get a better view of a nuclear explosion. As they watched the plume shoot up into the sky, they could feel the wind’s smoke and dust pulling towards them. They hurried to get off the mountain, from which they survived. But by the time he returned home, his clothes were wrapped with oily pink stains, Stephens said.

“Then there was cancer all about,” he said. Her father died of colon and kidney cancer. Her brother, who is still alive, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Colon cancer, which Stephen has also been diagnosed with, falls under RECA.