About 20 witnesses told a panel of congressmen Friday that the government owes compensation to those who developed cancer as a result of radioactive fallout from above-ground nuclear tests in Nevada during the 1950s and 1960s.

Rep. James V. Hansen, R-Utah, was chairman of the hearing to gather public testimony on a proposed bill that would establish a commission to set compensation levels for downwind residents in Utah, Nevada and Arizona."Its time to end the debate and start helping victims," Hansen told a crowd of about 150 in city hall.

Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, attended the hearing and addressed the crowd.

Hatch said the proposed bill was the consequence of the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of a federal lawsuit seeking compensation for more than 1,000 people who claim they or their relatives died of cancer as a result of fallout from the atmospheric tests that drifted over the three Southwestern states.

"If the U.S. can afford $100 million to compensate victims of Hiroshima, Congress should certainly be able to set aside something to pay a debt the whole nation owes," said Hatch.

He said the government failed to protect downwind residents from the fallout, or warn them to take precautions to protect themselves.

Under the bill, which will be introduced by Hansen, the commission would consist of two representatives each from Utah, Arizona and Nevada, plus a seventh member appointed by the president.

Janet Gordon, Cedar City, spoke on behalf of Citizens' Call, an organization of downwind victims.

She said many who testified before Congress during earlier hearings on the effects of the fallout have since died of cancer. She was the only speaker to oppose creation of the commission. She said compensation should be based on what's been proven in the lawsuit and congressional hearings.