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A People’s History of the Nuclear West

Renee Bright / Wikimedia Creative Commons

In 1951, the U.S. government began test detonations of nuclear bombs in the Nevada desert. It wasn’t long before people started getting cancer.

Radioactive material — fallout from the bombs — found its way into the bodies of people throughout the Intermountain West. The soil and the snow were contaminated — even the milk was dangerous. And reports of leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers increased. Decades later, President George H. W. Bush passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which gave cash payouts to the victims who came to be known as “downwinders.” RECA is set to expire in June — unless Congress acts. And our guest, historian Sarah Alisabeth Fox, says that the story of nuclear fallout in America is far from over.


  • Mary Dickson | Writer, downwinder, thyroid cancer survivor and activist working to expand RECA.
  • Sarah Alisabeth Fox | Author working on her Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia. Her book is called “Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West.” [Amazon | Bookshop

Airdate: Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Rebroadcast: Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 9 a.m. and Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m.

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