Commemorative events are set for Friday in Salt Lake City to mark more than six decades of nuclear weapons tests and the impacts they had on people around the West.
Gov. Gary Herbert, local leaders in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Kane County and Springdale have designated Jan. 27 as a Day of Remembrance for Downwinders.
Events are planned in conjunction with a U.S. Senate resolution, sponsored by Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, to honor “Americans who, during the Cold War, worked and lived downwind from nuclear testing sites and were adversely affected by the radiation exposure” from above ground nuclear weapons tests.
Nearly 1,000 nuclear weapons were detonated at the Nevada Test Site during the Cold War, and they sent clouds of radioactive fallout across the United States, exposing a generation of Americans to radiation.
“By designating the day when testing began in Nevada as ‘National Day of Remembrance for America’s Downwinders,’ the Senate has given us a unique opportunity to pause that day to honor those who died, those who are sick or have suffered as a result of their participation in the nation’s nuclear testing program,” said Downwinders Director Preston J. Truman, “and to resolve that it must never happen again.”
He added: “We hope that people across the West will join with us that day to remember and to look ahead to a future with justice for those who sacrificed for the nation and for a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Truman said he hopes the recognition will give new life to efforts get funding to complete health-effects studies, such as the Utah Thyroid Study. He also would like to see renewed efforts to get proper medical care for those affected by fallout, expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to and ratify a nuclear test ban treaty.
Cosponsored by New Mexico Democrats, Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, and Colorado Democrats, Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, the resolution says “Downwinders paid a high price for the development of a nuclear weapons program.”
It also says they “deserve to be recognized for the sacrifice they have made for the defense of the United States.”
The six Senate sponsors have reintroduced legislation this year to update the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to offer restitution for Downwinders and uranium workers in seven states. The law currently covers those in 21 counties in Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
“The cancers we’ve suffered and the loved ones we’ve lost demand more than one day of remembrance,” said downwinder Eve Mary Verde. “They demand that we act. We must bring a permanent end to nuclear weapons testing and we must ensure justice for downwinders affected by past tests.”
Day of Remembrance events in Utah
P In Salt Lake City, downwinders will honor the silent victims of the Cold War in the Hall of Governors at the state Capitol at noon on Friday. Speakers will include U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, Salt Lake City downwinder Mary Dickson, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, and a bipartisan group of current and former state representatives.
Later on Friday, the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons plans a candlelight vigil, 5:30 p.m., at the Episcopal Church Center of Utah, 75 S. 200 East.
In Orem, a commemoration is set for noon in the Library Lecture Hall, Room 120, at Utah Valley University. The event will include films as well as a history of fallout in Utah County by downwinder J. Preston Truman.
Elsewhere in Utah, resolutions and proclamations marking the Day of Remembrance have been passed by Springdale Mayor Pat Cluff. The Kane County Commission passed a resolution Monday.
Additional events are planned throughout the West, with vigils in Boise, Idaho; Kingman, Ariz., northern New Mexico, southwest Colorado and Montana.
More uranium workers get compensation
The U.S. Labor Department is notifying some former uranium workers and their families they are now eligible for benefits under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act.
The workers were employed at 17 facilities in the West, including the Mexican Hat mill in Utah and the nearby Monument Valley mill in Arizona.
Former employees, or their survivors, may be eligible if they worked at any of the facilities during a period of covered U.S. Department of Energy-funded environmental remediation efforts. In several cases, mill facilities already covered have expanded periods of eligibility, such as the mill in Monticello.
For more information about the uranium workers’ benefits, call toll-free at 866-888-3322 or visit the DEEOIC’s website at www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/.