In New Mexico, ‘Oppenheimer’ offers new hope for long denied compensation

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

August 23, 2023

The movie “Oppenheimer” shows the destruction from the blast of the first atomic bomb, known as the Trinity test, on July 16, 1945, roughly 200 miles south of Los Alamos, N.M.  

Since then, under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), the U.S. government has paid billions to residents of Arizona, Utah and Nevada who experienced downwind health impacts from 100 other aboveground atmospheric nuclear weapons tests that took place in Nevada between 1945 and 1962.

That could soon change. Bipartisan legislation to expand RECA to include New Mexicans living downwind of the explosions has passed the U.S. Senate, partially due to the increased visibility of “Oppenheimer.” Assistance for New Mexico residents is finally a possibility. President Biden this month signaled that he would sign the measure if it were to reach his desk. It’s now up to lawmakers in the U.S. House to make it happen.