Society News Archive

28 April 2005

The National Academies' National Research Council has reported in a press release dated April 28, 2005, that its Committee to Assess the Scientific Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program has completed a report that calls for Congress to "establish new scientific criteria for decisions about awarding federal compensation to people who developed certain cancers or other specific diseases as a result of exposure to radioactive fallout from U.S. nuclear weapons tests."

The report calls for changes to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). RECA provides compensation to citizens of certain specific counties in the states of Arizona, Utah, and Nevada if they develop certain cancers presumed to have been caused by fallout from nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site. The RECA also covers civilian test-site workers and certain uranium miners and millers. The National Research Council recommends the changes because the RECA is not based on the science and knowledge of radioactive material transport associated with the weapons testing nor on the probability a cancer was likely caused by exposure to the fallout.

The report calls for changing the RECA to use the best estimates of where the fallout actually deposited in the United States and to use the best estimate of the dose an individual may have received from the fallout to calculate a "probability of causation." The Health Physics Society issued a position statement in 2001 calling for the use of doses in determining compensation for diseases potentially caused by radiation exposure rather than presuming the cause. The report of the National Research Council is consistent with the Health Physics Society position.

The full report will be released later this year.