Bush signs law on compensation in arms program

October 16, 1990|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Ending years of struggle in the courts and in Congress, President Bush signed yesterday the first law that compensates American civilians injured or killed by radiation from the U.S. program to build and test atomic weapons.

Approved by Congress late last month, the law establishes a $100 million trust fund and is the latest in a series of extraordinary actions taken this year by the government to acknowledge and apologize for unsafe practices at U.S. nuclear weapons plants that may have resulted in injuries or deaths among workers and civilians.

None of the money will come from private industry.

Mr. Bush signed the legislation yesterday morning aboard Air Force One while flying to Dallas.

The president's approval came after the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy reversed the positions they had taken for at least 13 years, opposing any compensation.

The reversals came because, in the long run, such a compensation program will be less expensive than paying injury and liability claims from tens of thousands of Americans who are affected by a spate of class-action lawsuits this year in Ohio, Colorado, and Washington state.

The trust fund established yesterday is intended to pay a maximum of $50,000 apiece to residents of counties in southern Utah, Nevada, and northern Arizona who developed any of 12 types of cancer. The victims lived downwind from the Nevada Test Site near Las Vegas.

The trust fund will also provide up to $100,000 apiece to 400 to 650 men and members of their families who mined uranium for the atomic arms industry in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

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