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Fearing Radiation Poisoning from Fukushima, Lawsuit Against TEPCO Grows

Plaintiffs say Japanese energy company lied about dangers of working near destroyed nuclear reactors

by
Jon Queally, staff writer

Sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan scrub down the flight deck in an effort to remove any potential radiation contamination during Operation Tomodachi, March 23, 2011. (Photo: Kevin Gray/U.S. Navy, Flickr)

Claiming that TEPCO, the Japanese energy company that owns the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor, knowingly withheld vital information about the levels of radiation released following the plant's disaster in 2010, a growing number of US service members are joining a lawsuit seeking more than $2 billion in damages.

Though first filed by US sailors stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan—which responded to the tsunami disaster by conducting search and rescue operations in the immediate aftermath—the suit has now grown to include nearly thirty others who fear they, too, were exposed to high levels of nuclear radiation. As many as one hundred other people are in the process of joining.

Reporting in Stars & Stripes says that "plaintiffs claim they have suffered a number of ailments they say are linked to their exposure, ranging from headaches and difficulty concentrating to rectal bleeding, thyroid problems, cancer, tumors and gynecological bleeding."

According to the official complaint: “At all relevant times, [TEPCO] knew that the reactors and storage tanks at the [Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant] were then leaking and emitting high levels of radiation,” the complaint reads.

And Stars & Stripes adds:

The Defense Department stands by its claim that while some servicemembers experienced elevated levels of radiation, they weren’t high enough to make people sick. It started the Operation Tomodachi Registry so employees in Japan could look up radiation dose estimates.

Two years after the disaster, it remains incomplete; DOD spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said several reports are expected to be added to the site in the “next few months.”

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