Senate Democrats


Washington, D.C. – Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced federal legislation today to help people who were exposed to cancer-causing radiation from testing at the Nevada Test Site.

The Nevada Test Site Veterans’ Compensation Act of 2006 is designed to help Americans who did some of the most dangerous jobs in history – working at the Nevada Test Site, including during and after the Cold War when atomic bombs were exploded. Many workers at the Test Site were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation and have now developed radiation-linked cancers.

“These workers are our Cold War veterans,” said Reid. “They risked their lives to keep us safe. We need to honor their service to our country, like we would with any war heroes. It’s time to give our Cold War veterans the honor and compensation they deserve.”

Reid’s bill would require that Nevada Test Site Cold War veterans be designated as a Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) — a legal designation that already applies to workers at some other atomic sites. The SEC designation would expedite the compensation process for workers exposed to radiation, and make the compensation process fair and equitable for all Nevada Test Site Cold War veterans.

The U.S. held 100 above-ground nuclear tests and 828 underground tests at the site between 1951 an 1993. In the early days of atomic testing, many people at the Test Site worked with significant amounts of radioactive materials without knowledge of the risks. Some of those workers have been waiting for decades for the government to acknowledge the sacrifices they made for their country. Many have been waiting for compensation while they suffer from life-threatening cancers, and others have already died.

“I worked at the Nevada Test Site during the Cold War,” said Paul Stednick, who was a labor foreman in the drilling department from 1966 to 1994. “We did important work for the security of our country. There were hazards at the site while we were testing atomic weapons. Workers who are sick now with cancer deserve the compensation and medical treatment for their work to protect America.”

Lori Hunton is the surviving daughter of Oral Triplett, who was employed with the Nevada Test Site during the cold war. “During the years that he was employed he was vented on,” said Hunton. “As a child I can remember that after one incident, when he was sent home after a post-shot drilling operation, he had little red cheerios on the side of his face. We have been seeking compensation for over 28 years. The Nevada Test Site Veteran’s Compensation Act of 2006 is finally bringing closure and the accountability for the veterans of the Nevada Test Site and the familys that have been seeking compensation for years.”

Reid’s bill would cover all Nevada Test Site workers who were employed at the site between 1950 and 1993 who were present during an atmospheric or underground nuclear test or performed certain work immediately after a test. It would also cover workers who were present at an episodic event involving radiation releases, or worked at the Nevada Test Site for at least 250 days in a job that involved – or should have involved – monitoring for exposure to ionizing radiation.