Resolution on radiation compensation discussed

PARS President Robert Celestial (PNC file photo)

A hearing was held Thursday for Resolution 94-35, which seeks compensation for residents of Guam and the Northern Marianas who contracted certain cancers and other illnesses caused by exposure to radiation from nuclear test weapon sites.

During the hearing, Pacific Association of Radiation Survivors president Robert Celestial explained how Guam residents were affected.

“This photo was from the first hydrogen bomb detonated in Enewetak Atoll in November 1952. This date is significant for Guam because this bomb was for the 10.4 megaton hydrogen bomb. This bomb was over a thousand times greater than the one they detonated in Japan,” Celestial said.

He added: “That’s some of the guys I was with in 1977. Just the other day, the National Academies of Science released a report that shows that the Marshall Islands still have a higher reading and their soil samples are higher than Chernobyl and Fukushima. So it’s amazing that I’m still alive.”

The public hearing comes after New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Luján’s introduction of “The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019” on Tuesday, which includes compensation for Guam residents exposed to radiation during nuclear testing in the Pacific from 1946 to 1962.

The new legislation has more than 35 co-sponsors, including Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas.

To show the legislature’s support of the bill, Senator Therese Terlaje introduced Resolution 94-35.

Terlaje said she wants to thank New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and Congressman San Nicolas for the introduction of the House RECA bill. She also commends Robert Celestial for his work.

“It’s going to take all of us. It’s taken all of us to get this far. We pray that we can receive this benefit now. This program is set to expire on May 2022 and time is ticking and it’s always been ticking because people are passing away. We’ve seen the crisis that we have here so I just want to thank you, Mr. Celestial. We have not forgotten you and all of your efforts,” the senator said.

She added: “Without this legislation, the current authorization for RECA will expire in two years – leaving thousands without the ability to pay for their medical care for illnesses directly linked to the exposure.”

Qualified claimants are entitled to free medical care, health screening, and $150,000 compensation for certain illnesses.