The federal government has adopted a “wind” compensation program for those who lived near the Nevada test site and suffered from radiation-related cancer from nuclear explosions. However, unlike residents in other parts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah, residents of Kingman and Lower Mojave County have never been compensated by the federal government.
Residents of Lower Mojave County do not know why the federal government omitted them from the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, known as RECA. Nor the legislators, who have been fighting for years to expand the program. As RECA is due to end in 2022, they say it is urgent to involve residents such as Stevens and her neighbors and relatives.
“We want to make sure that all families affected are properly recognized and compensated,”
“They have suffered so that we can progress US defense systems at the time we tested nuclear missiles, and now we owe it to them to do their part to make sure they are recognized, acknowledged and compensated,” Stanton said.
Stevens spent more than a decade as president of Mojave Downwinders County, sending letters to lawmakers and collecting personal stories. She hopes she and others wind up seeing these changes in their lives.
“We have fought for so many years,” she said. “I want it resolved.”
The dangers and consequences of nuclear tests 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.
Stevens said the sight of lightning or huge mushroom clouds was fun. The detonation hours and dates were announced in newspapers. The children were given short breaks on test days to stand in the school yard and watch the explosions color the sky orange. In Las Vegas, just 65 miles from the test site, companies charge for the tests as tourist attractions to view from hotel windows.
Stevens recalls that as a teenager in 1953, she, her father, her uncle and her brother rode a horse in Mount Aquarius to get a better idea of one of the nuclear explosions. As they watched the plume shoot into the sky, they felt the wind blow smoke and dust at them. They hurried down the mountain, trying to escape the deposits. But by the time they get home, their clothes are covered in oily pink stains, Stevens said.
“So everyone upstairs had cancer,” she said. Her father died of colon and kidney cancer. Her brother, who is still alive, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Colon cancer, which was also diagnosed in Stephens, is covered by RECA.