Testing authorization upsets Downwinders' leader
Eleanor Fanire is less than happy that the U.S.
government continues development of tactical nuclear weapons and that funding is in place for those weapons to be tested at the Nevada Test Site.
"My feeling is why, with this day of technology, and all the bombs that have already been used in previous and current wars, why they want to continue," Fanire asked about the congressional decision to continue development of a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, otherwise known as a bunker-buster bomb.
"Many people in this county have cancer, or have died because of radiation fallout from the Nevada Test Site," she said.
Fanine added that the federal government still has not compensated Mohave County residents exposed to fallout above-ground nuclear testing during the 1950s through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
But she said she is grateful that state officials are finally trying to rectify the situation.
Fanire, 58, who attended junior high and high school in Kingman, said teachers and students would file into the schoolyard to watch the huge radioactive dust clouds fill the skies over Las Vegas.
During this time, she added, government officials assured the public that radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing was harmless.
Fanire, 58, said family members, former classmates, friends and neighbors who lived in Mohave County during the years of testing have contracted forms of cancer associated with Iodine-131, the radioactive material released during atomic bomb tests.
The 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act provides compensation for residents of Yavapai, Coconino, Apache and Navajo counties but not Mohave County.
The act later amended to allow additional areas to be added.
Administrated by the U.S.
Department of Justice, the program was approved to provide compensation for individuals with certain diseases related to radiation exposure.
Regulations were issued by the department establishing procedures to resolve claims.
The act specifies a payment of $50,000 to downwinders physically present in certain counties during periods of nuclear testing.
The payment can also go to a family member if the downwinder has died.
Although there is speculation as to the reason, no one knows for sure why only the Arizona Strip, in northern Mohave County, was included in the program while the remainder of the county was not.
The Mohave Downwinders, an advocacy group started by Fanire, is trying to get both Mohave County and La Paz counties added to the map.
The group has gained attention from state and local government officials since they began meeting almost a year ago.
Trent Franks, who represents Arizona's 2nd District, which includes Mohave County for the most part, Rep.
Rick Renzi, Sen.
John McCain and Joe Hart, a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, have said they will lend their support in getting Mohave County on the program map.
On Monday, state Rep.
Joe Hart, R-Kingman, introduced legislation through the House Environmental Committee he chairs.
The bill states, in part: "That the Congress and the President take steps to enact and implement legislation that would compensate the residents of Mohave County, Arizona who were sickened with radiation contamination due to nuclear testing at the Nevada test site."
Fanire said statistics show that residents of Mohave County suffered a higher incidence of cancers caused by radiation fallout than other counties recognized under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
Hart's bill also asks that the Secretary of State transmit copies of the memorial - that certain Mohave County residents suffered from harmful radiation fallout - put forth in the bill, be delivered to the president of the United States, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and each member of Congress from Arizona.
A Mohave Downwinders meeting will be held at noon Saturday at the Kathryn Heidenreich Adult Center.
A representative from the Mohave Museum of History and Arts will speak about how to research museum library records for evidence of residence within the county, important information for downwinders once the county is recognized under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program.
Fanire said the museum has old phone books, city directories, tax records, marriage licenses, copies of the Mohave Miner, airport files and high school albums from the time period when testing at the Nevada Test Site occurred to help substantiate residence.