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WASHINGTON, D.C. On November 2, 2002, President Bush signed the Justice Department's FY2002 Authorization bill, which contains several provisions amending the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). The changes include revisions to the downwinder and onsite participant categories, as well as uranium workers.

One of the revisions re-inserts a portion of Mohave County, Arizona (located north of the Grand Canyon) that was inadvertently eliminated when RECA was amended in July 2000. The change also clarifies the requirement that lung cancer must be "primary" for all claimant categories.

The change for uranium miners takes into account the duration of employment standard as an alternative to the present radiation exposure requirement. Prior to this amendment, uranium miners were required to prove exposure to at least 40 working levels (WLs) of radiation, while uranium millers and ore transporters were required to demonstrate employment in a mill or as an ore transporter for one full year. The current amendment allows uranium miners to qualify by meeting either the 40 WL exposure standard or the one-year duration of employment standard.

Also, uranium workers with lung cancer no longer are being required to submit evidence of a non-malignant respiratory disease. The current amendment strikes the requirement that, in cases where the claimant is living, those individuals with lung cancer must submit the medical documentation required for proof of a "non-malignant respiratory disease." This requirement had the unintended effect of precluding most lung cancer claimants -- who do not suffer from a non-malignant respiratory disease -- from establishing eligibility for compensation.

Congress created RECA in October 1990 to provide compassionate payments to individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases as a result of their exposure to radiation released during above-ground nuclear weapons tests or as a result of their exposure to radiation during employment in underground uranium mines. Since the inception of the program, almost $550 million has been distributed to 11,882 victims and their families.

The Department will immediately implement these changes with respect to all claims, including those pending with the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program.