The tragic consequences from nuclear testing fallout for many individuals and families may never be resolved satisfactorily. Efforts must continue, however, for the U.S. government to make restitution wherever possible.
The feds, which allowed the unsafe tests to take place in the first place, need to be far more compassionate in addressing the claims of those who were living in southern Utah and Nevada or visiting those areas at the time of the testing.It took years of investigation by reporters and intense political pressure to get the government to admit that it was guilty of any wrongdoing. Lee Davidson of the Deseret News has played a key role in that.
While precautions need to be taken regarding the various claims, there needs to be a more benevolent government attitude toward those making those claims. In many cases they are victims of something over which they had no control, something they were initially told was "safe."
The government has agreed to compensate from $50,000 to $100,000 those who can prove they qualify as fallout victims. Downwind cancer victims qualify for $50,000. Cancer victims who worked at the Nevada Test Site may receive $75,000.
Uranium miners, whom the government knew could die from cancers anticipated from unventilated conditions that it chose not to fix, may qualify for $100,000.
But as Davidson pointed out in the first of his three-part series on fallout in the Deseret News, letter-of-the-law enforcement excludes many, some perhaps unfairly, from the compensation program that was approved by the government in 1990.
Many who believe they should receive compensation do not because according to eligibility requirements they have the wrong types of cancer or other diseases, lived in the wrong place (or maybe the right place at the wrong time), don't have ample proof of their sicknesses or residence, or were too old or too young when they developed illnesses.
Determining who should receive compensation is not an easy task. Less than half of the 6,008 applications acted upon by the end of 1997 were approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. Those, presumably, are the strongest cases.
A spokeswoman for the National Committee for Radiation Victims said thousands of other cancer victims didn't apply because they believed they would be denied compensation because of the strict regulations.
Thousands have suffered a great deal of pain and death because of the unsafe, deceitful tests. That needs to be kept in mind by those determining who receives compensation in attempts at fairness and restoring federal credibility.