Atomic Vets: Seeking Redemption after being Poisoned by their Own Government

Thousands of armed forces personnel seek compensation for involuntary exposure to radiation amid the call of duty.

Rajat Narang - The Radioactive Warzone

5/14/20242 min read

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs defines an atomic veteran as someone exposed to ionizing radiations during atmospheric nuclear tests conducted by the United States between 1945 and 1962 or were part of U.S. forces occupying areas near or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki or were held captive as PoWs around these zones which were exposed to ionizing radiation after the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings.

However, that is a very narrow definition and criteria for classifying veterans as Atomic or non-Atomic. For instances, there have been thousands of U.S. military personnel who were exposed to unsafe levels of ionizing radiations during numerous clean-up operations which were conducted and carried out after radiation leaks across multiple military and civil nuclear facilities.

The personnel included in this long list also include Jimmy 'Earl' Carter himself, the 39th President of the United States, who was deployed for a clean-up operation to the Chalk River Laboratories after a surge in the NRX reactor in 1952 as a U.S. Navy personnel with specialization in nuclear power propulsion for Naval vessels. Carter himself later elaborated that he was exposed to dangerous levels of ionizing radiations while undertaking part in the site clean-up operation at Chalk River Lab as knowledge at the time about safe levels of exposure to radiations was limited. Carter, in fact, was forced to leave the Navy prematurely owing to this episode.

However, there have been many such other U.S. military veterans who were exposed to such ionizing radiations without their consent or awareness across USAF's Minuteman ICBM silos, during clean-up operations at nuclear facilities & sites or other such similar operations. But the worst part is that these exposures to radiation do not qualify for compensation under the Radiations Emissions Compensation Act (RECA) enacted by the U.S. Congress in October 1990 to compensate such victims.

The National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV) was established in 1979 to address the cause of the atomic vets and to get justice for them. NAAV is now working actively towards addressing this anomaly and discrimination by campaigning for the expansion of the scope of compensation to such veterans under RECA which, unfortunately, is set to expire on June 10, 2024.

The NAAV plans to undertake a march towards the Capitol Hill for this in early June 2024. Hope the long overdue justice is finally delivered...

Fore more, check out NAAVs' website

For more on Nuclear History, do explore the following 3-Part Book Series:-

The Fire of the Gods: Oppenheimer's Legacy