BOISE – Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo said he is poised to introduce legislation designed to expand to Idaho a federal program compensating people for diseases linked to fallout from Cold War-era testing in Nevada.
But he’s still waiting on a report from the National Academies of Science to decide just how much of Idaho should be included in the legislation.
The report, looking at the adequacy of the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, was expected to be released by March 31. Isaf Al-Nabulsi, the senior program officer with the national academies’ Board on Radiation Effects Research, said the study was still under peer review and is now expected to be released by the end of this month – two months before the June 30 deadline mandated by Congress.
“As you may know, I have concluded that the evidence exists to expand RECA to include four counties in Idaho, and I am committed to introducing legislation,” Crapo wrote in a letter to the academies. “However, it is my expectation that the … report will provide evidence that expansion beyond those four counties will be warranted.”
J Truman, the director of Downwinders, an organization for Idaho residents believed to be suffering from radiation-related health problems, said Crapo’s legislation could open the door to states from Idaho to the East Coast.
“There’s a group of Montana thyroid cancer victims on their way to Washington this week to badger their delegation for legislation, and a group from Arizona is demanding that they be included. The fallout hit most of Iowa and Missouri, even parts of upstate New York,” Truman said. “It’s a sad situation, when we still haven’t got justice and it’s 54 years and counting.”
The Idaho downwinders say they should be eligible for the $50,000 payment that the federal government gives to other victims of the 1950s atmospheric nuclear weapons-testing fallout. The nuclear tests sometimes left parts of southern Idaho covered with radioactive ash, contaminating food and likely causing thyroid cancer and possibly other deadly diseases.
Idaho state legislators have already passed a bill urging Crapo and the rest of the delegation to support adding at least Blaine, Gem, Custer and Lemhi counties to the federal compensation list.
Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson said he wants to see the results of the study, but will support Crapo’s legislation.
“Preferably it will include the state of Idaho and not just the four counties,” Simpson said.
Spokesmen for Rep. Butch Otter and Sen. Larry Craig, both Republicans, held their cards closer.
“Congressman Otter is very concerned about the pain and personal tragedy that has been visited upon Idaho families,” Otter spokesman Mark Warbis said. “Congressman Otter also believes that decisions must be based on science and not on politics. If this were going to be a political decision, there was no need for a scientific study. Congressman Otter looks forward to the study’s findings.”
Craig is also waiting on the study, said spokesman Mike Tracy.
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