Radiation Exposure Compensation Act
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (“the Act” or “RECA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2210 note, established an administrative program for claims relating to atmospheric nuclear testing and uranium industry employment. The Act delegated authority to the Attorney General to establish procedures and make determinations regarding whether claims satisfy statutory eligibility criteria.
This page provides a partial summary of the requirements for compensation under RECA. Please refer to the Act and to the Department’s implementing regulations at 28 C.F.R. Part 79 for more information. Claim forms may be downloaded using links at the bottom of this page. You may also request a claim form be mailed to you by contacting the RECA Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-800-729-7327.
On June 7, 2022, the President signed into law the RECA Extension Act of 2022. This law extends the termination of the RECA Trust Fund and the filing deadline for all claims for two years from its date of enactment.
The Program has revised its filing procedures consistent with the extended statutory deadline. Claims that bear a date of June 10, 2024, on the postmark or stamp by another commercial carrier shall be deemed timely filed upon receipt by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program. The Department will return untimely claims and will not accept electronic submissions. For more information, please see the Department’s Notification of Procedures for Claims Submitted at the Revised Statutory Filing Deadline.
The United States conducted nearly 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons development tests from 1945 to 1962. Essential to the nation’s nuclear weapons development was uranium mining and processing, which was carried out by tens of thousands of workers.
Following the conclusion of these activities, lawsuits against the United States alleged failure to warn of exposures to known radiation hazards. These suits were dismissed by the appellate courts. Congress responded by devising a program allowing partial restitution to individuals who developed serious illnesses after presumed exposure to radiation released during the atmospheric nuclear tests or after employment in the uranium industry. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed on October 5, 1990. The Act’s scope of coverage was broadened on July 10, 2000.
This unique statute was designed to serve as an expeditious, low-cost alternative to litigation. Significantly, RECA does not require claimants to establish causation. Rather, claimants qualify for compensation by establishing the diagnosis of a listed compensable disease after working or residing in a designated location for a specific period of time.
RECA Covered Areas
RECA establishes lump sum compensation awards for individuals who contracted specified diseases in three defined populations:
- Uranium Miners, Millers, and Ore Transporters may be eligible for one-time, lump sum compensation of $100,000.
- “Onsite Participants” at atmospheric nuclear weapons tests may be eligible for one-time, lump sum compensation of up to $75,000.
- Individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada Test Site (“Downwinders") may be eligible for one-time, lump sum compensation of $50,000.
The Act defines specific eligibility criteria within these three broad areas of application:
Uranium Worker States: The Act covers certain uranium industry employment in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, Washington, Utah, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, and Texas.
The dates of coverage are from January 1, 1942, through December 31, 1971. The Act requires the employee to have worked in a covered uranium mine for at least one year, or have been exposed to 40 or more working level months of radiation while employed in a uranium mine, during this covered period. Alternatively, an employee may have worked in a covered uranium mill, or in the transport of uranium or vanadium-uranium ore from a mine or mill, for at least one year during the covered period. To be eligible for compensation, a claimant must establish both uranium industry employment that meets these statutory requirements and a subsequent diagnosis of a specified compensable disease.
Congress set forth the following compensable diseases for uranium workers, listed in the chart below:
|Compensable diseases for Uranium Miners, Uranium Millers, and Ore Transporters|
|Uranium Miners||Lung cancer||Fibrosis of the lung||Pulmonary fibrosis||Silicosis||Pneumoconiosis||Cor pulmonale related to fibrosis of the lung|
|Uranium Millers & Ore Transporters||Lung cancer||Fibrosis of the lung||Pulmonary fibrosis||Silicosis||Pneumoconiosis||Cor pulmonale related to fibrosis of the lung||Renal cancer||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.
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.
Congress set forth the following compensable diseases for Onsite Participants and Downwinders, listed in the table below. A compensable cancer must be primary to the organ listed and satisfy statutory requirements for onset:
|Compensable Diseases for Onsite Participants and Downwinders|
|Leukemia (but not chronic lymphocytic leukemia)||Multiple myeloma||Lymphomas (other than Hodgkin’s disease)|
|Primary cancers of the:|
|Thyroid||Male or female breast||Esophagus||Stomach|
|Pharynx||Small intestine||Pancreas||Bile ducts|
|Gall bladder||Salivary gland||Urinary bladder||Brain|
|Colon||Ovary||Liver (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated)||Lung|
The Radiation Exposure Compensation Program
The U.S. Attorney General established the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program within the Constitutional and Specialized Tort Litigation Section in April 1992. The Department of Justice promulgated regulations designed to use existing records so that claims can be resolved in a reliable, objective, and non-adversarial manner, quickly and with little administrative cost to the person filing the claim or the United States.
Although residents of the Four Corners Region (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona) have filed the majority of RECA claims, the program has awarded compensation to individuals residing in each state, as well as several foreign countries. The claimant population includes many Native American tribes. The Program has visited more than a dozen reservations to meet with tribal leaders and assist tribe members filing RECA claims.
Inter-Agency Radiation Network
Today, the RECA Program is part of a broad inter-agency network that comprises the comprehensive federal radiation compensation system.
The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act ("EEOICPA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 7384 et seq. (2012), pays an additional $50,000 to certain individuals who were approved for compensation under the uranium worker provisions of RECA, as well as impairment and wage loss benefits. For more information, please review the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs EEOICPA website.
The National Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program ("RESEP"), provides grants to rural health clinics located in Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. RESEP clinics provide medical screening for compensable diseases under RECA at no cost to the individual. RESEP clinics may also offer referral services, diagnostic tests, educational materials about preventive health measures, and assistance with RECA and EEOICPA claims. For more information, please review the National Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program website.
The Nuclear Test Personnel Review (“NTPR”) program is a Department of Defense office that works to confirm veteran participation in U.S. nuclear tests. More information, including historical reports on U.S. nuclear tests, is available on the Nuclear Test Personnel Review website.
Finally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) administers the largest system of benefits for veterans of any nation in the world. More information regarding VA benefits related to radiation exposure is available on the VA radiation exposures website.
(as of April 15, 2020)
RECA Awards To Date
March 2, 2015
Justice Department Surpasses $2 Billion in Awards Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act
Policy Guidance Regarding the Combination of Periods of Employment for Miners, Millers, and Ore Transporters.
It is the Department's practice to permit claimants to combine periods of employment as miners, millers, and ore transporters to meet the statutory one-year duration of employment requirement. For all three categories of uranium workers (mining, milling, and ore transporting), the Act specifies six common diseases: primary cancer of the lung, fibrosis of the lung, pulmonary fibrosis, cor pulmonale related to fibrosis of the lung, silicosis, and pneumoconiosis. Therefore, in cases involving these six illnesses, the Act’s exposure criteria can be satisfied by combining periods of employment that include mining, milling, and ore transporting. For millers and ore transporters (but not miners), the Act specifies two additional compensable diseases: primary renal cancer and chronic renal disease including nephritis and kidney tubal tissue injury. In cases involving these two illnesses, the Act’s exposure criteria can be satisfied by combining periods of employment that include only milling and ore transporting. See 73 Fed. Reg. 63196 for more information.