Hawley highlights ‘Oppenheimer’ Oscar nominations to call for expansion of radiation compensation

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to highlight Americans seeking compensation for exposure to nuclear testing after Christopher Nolan’s biopic “Oppenheimer” led in Oscar nominations.

Nolan’s film, which chronicles J. Robert Oppenheimer’s work on the Manhattan Project during World War 2, as well as the loss of his security clearance in the 1950s, secured 13 nominations Tuesday, with nods for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Cillian Murphy’s performance as Oppenheimer.

“The Oppenheimer film tells a compelling story of these test programs. But it does not tell the story of the Americans left behind—still reckoning with the health and financial consequences of America’s nuclear research, after all these years. Shouldn’t the victims who are still paying the price have a voice, too?” Hawley wrote.

Hawley, along with Sens. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have expanded coverage under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

The 30-year-old law compensates those affected by radiation from World War 2-era tests and uranium ore mining. However, its coverage does not include residents of Missouri, where weapons-grade uranium was produced at St. Louis’s Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, or New Mexico, where the initial Trinity test of the atomic bomb was conducted in 1945. The test is a climactic set piece in the Nolan film.

The bipartisan amendment would have expanded the law’s coverage to New Mexico, Missouri, Idaho, Montana, Guam and Colorado and extended it 19 years. President Biden signed a two-year extension of the law in 2022.

Although the amendment passed the Senate last year with a filibuster-proof majority, it was removed from the final conference version of the NDAA. Its sponsors forcefully denounced the removal, with Hawley calling it a “major betrayal of thousands and thousands of Missourians who have been lied to and ignored for years.”

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