RECA Allows Those Exposed to Radiation Fallout to Sue the U.S. Government

RECA allows those exposed to radiation from nuclear testing to sue the U.S. government for compensation.

The towering nuclear mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb above an island or desert expanse is an image many of us associate with the Cold War era. As foregone as that era may seem, the long-term effects of Cold War nuclear testing are still permeating over thousands of miles surrounding the empty deserts. 

RECA, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, was passed in 1990 to compensate those who suffered from fallout of nuclear bomb testing, which took place between 1945 and 1962, as well as those who became ill following the mining, processing, and transport of uranium. The act provides monetary compensation and a plethora of other benefits for those harmed. So far, more than $2.5 billion has been awarded. Today, it also compensates those who lived near these testing sites, including Native Americans whose adjacent land was often exploited for these tests.

During the Cold War, the U.S. facilitated around 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, and Colorado. These tests did often irreparable harm to those living near these testing areas.

RECA was devised to avoid the drawn out, expensive process of litigation against the government. Before it was passed, a series of lawsuits against the United States for failing to notify people of the dangers involving nuclear radiation had been dismissed. 

A large percentage of claims have been compensated since 1992. In June, President Biden signed the RECA Extension Act of 2022, expanding its reach and providing avenues of compensation that did not exist before. It also gave people two more years to file a claim.

RECA originally provided compensation to those present or downwind of the nuclear testing and those involved in the mining or production of uranium, but only if they suffered from specific cancers. Biden’s expansion of RECA broadens the list of illnesses open for compensation to include cancer of the bile ducts, chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease, and multiple myeloma. It also increases the eligibility of an expanded group of people, including those downwind of trinity testing site in New Mexico.

In addition, the bill gives those eligible for claims another two years to file.

What Compensation is Available?

The following claims can now be made under RECA:

  • A lump sum of $100,000 may be paid to uranium miners, mill workers, and uranium ore transporters exposed to radiation from testing.
  • Participants who were on-site during the testing could also be eligible for a one-time payment of $75,000.
  • A $50,000 one-time payment for those living downwind of test sites is also available. 

Who Qualifies for RECA Compensation?

The following are eligible diagnoses for compensation:

  • Leukemia (not chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Lymphomas other than Hodgkin’s disease
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Male or female breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Pharynx cancer
  • Small intestine cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bile duct cancer
  • Gall bladder cancer
  • Salivary gland cancer
  • Urinary bladder cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Liver cancer, except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated
  • Lung cancer
  • Silicosis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Cor pormonale related to fibrosis of the lungs
  • Pneumoconiosis

The following people may be qualified for RECA compensation:

  • Uranium miners exposed January 1, 1942 through December 31, 1971 who have been diagnosed with lung cancer, fibrosis of the lungs, pulmonary fibrosis, silicosis, pneumoconiosis, or cor pormonale related to fibrosis of the lungs.
  • Uranium millers and ore transporters exposed Jan. 1, 1942 through Dec. 31, 1971 who have been diagnosed with lung cancer, fibrosis of the lungs, pulmonary fibrosis, silicosis, pneumoconiosis, or cor pormeal related to fibrosis of the lungs, renal cancer, or chronic renal disease.
  • Onsite Participants:  The Act covers the participation onsite in a test involving the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device.  “Onsite” means duty above or within the Pacific Test Sites, the Nevada Test Site, the South Atlantic Test Site, the Trinity Test Site, any designated location within a naval shipyard, air force base, or other official government installation where ships, aircraft or other equipment used in an atmospheric nuclear detonation were decontaminated; or any designated location used for the purpose of monitoring fallout from an atmospheric nuclear test conducted at the Nevada Test Site.  “Atmospheric detonations of nuclear devices” means only those tests conducted by the United States prior to January 1, 1963, and does not include the wartime detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  A claimant must establish both participation onsite in a test involving the atmospheric detonation of a nuclear device and a subsequent diagnosis of a specified compensable disease.
  • Downwinder Areas:  The Act covers physical presence in certain counties located downwind from the Nevada Test Site in the states of Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.  In the State of Utah, the covered counties include Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, Washington, and Wayne.  In the State of Nevada, the counties include Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Nye, White Pine, and that portion of Clark County that consists of townships 13 through 16 at ranges 63 through 71. In the State of Arizona, the counties include Apache, Coconino, Gila, Navajo, Yavapai, and that part of Arizona that is north of the Grand Canyon. These include a number of Native American reservations.
  • A claimant must establish physical presence in the Downwinder area for at least two years during the period beginning on January 21, 1951, and ending on October 31, 1958, or for the entire period beginning on June 30, 1962, and ending on July 31, 1962.  An eligible claimant must also establish a subsequent diagnosis of a specified compensable disease.
  • Those who worked on uranium production and have suffered adverse health effects. Workers must have worked on the site for at least a year and have spent more than 40 months exposed to radiation in the uranium mine. 


The 2022 amendment also extends eligibility of RECA to persons exposed to the dangerous amounts of radiation due to nuclear accidents outside of the United States.

The Affects of Nuclear Testing on People

A study conducted by the United States Government claimed that the total fallout of Cold War nuclear testing by the U.S., the Soviet Union, Britain, and France caused the deaths of approximately 15,000 Americans. A study by National Cancer Institute and Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that around 80,000 Americans born in the last 70 years have already or will contract some form of cancer due to nuclear testing.

Shockingly, it is also believed that everyone living in the United States has been exposed to at least small amounts of nuclear fallout.

Unfortunately, terrible side effects of nuclear testing could be passed on from generation to generation. Debilitating genetic mutations, cancers, and other diseases have resulted from this fallout. Stories of families swimming in nearby lakes or eating fish from contaminated waterways are prevalent. They were never warned that the fallout was dangerous.

We can only hope that these experiments, which ultimately harmed American people, will never again be carried out so recklessly. In the meantime, we can continue to hold accountable a government that failed so many in the worst way possible.

If you believe you may be eligible for RECA compensation, we want to help. We’ve made it our mission to hold corporations and the government accountable when they exploit and harm American people.

Call OnderLawyers at 800-799-2824 today!

Together, we are making a difference.