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Fukushima victims

Supporters and lawyers of the six young people who were living in the Fukushima region when the March 11, 2011 tsunami caused the nuclear disaster, arrive in front of the Tokyo district court in Tokyo on January 27, 2022, to file a class-action lawsuit against plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) over claims they developed thyroid cancer due to exposure to radiation. (Photo: Beyrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images)

Cancer Patients File Landmark Suit Over Fukushima Disaster

Some of the plaintiffs in the newly filed case "have even given up on their dreams for their future," said one of their lawyers.

Andrea Germanos

Six people—aged 6 to 16 years old at the time of the Fukushima meltdown—filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Tokyo Electric Power Company, demanding millions in compensation for thyroid cancer they say is a direct result of radiation from the 2011 nuclear disaster.

"Some plaintiffs have had difficulties advancing to higher education and finding jobs, and have even given up on their dreams for their future," Kenichi Ido, the lead lawyer in the class action lawsuit, told Agence France-Presse.

The lawsuit against TEPCO was filed in the Tokyo District Court. The plaintiffs, who all lived in the Fukushima region at the time of the disaster and were diagnosed with thyroid cancer between the ages of 12 and 18, are demanding 616 million yen ($5.4 million) in compensation.

According to the Associated Press, four of the plaintiffs have had "their thyroid fully removed and need lifetime hormonal treatment. One of them says the cancer has since spread. The other two had part of their thyroid removed."

Lawyers for the group said it marks the first lawsuit concerning adverse health impacts from the disaster.

The world's second-worst nuclear catastrophe after Chernobyl, the Japanese disaster began to unfold in March of 2011 after an earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

In 2019, a Japanese court's acquittal of former TEPCO executives accused of criminal negligence for failing to take adequate safety measures ahead of the Fukushima disaster sparked outrage. Controversy continues over the Japanese government's plans to start releasing contaminated wastewater from the nuclear plant into the sea next year.

Opponents of nuclear power have seized the disaster as an example of why such energy can never be safe.

Among those critics are two former Japanese prime ministers—Junichiro Koizumi and Naoto Kan—who on Thursday urged the European Union to reject nuclear power as part of any "green energy" transition designed to address the climate crisis.

Koizumi, who held office from 2001 to 2006, said that because of the Fukushima accident, "we've learned nuclear power was not safe, cheap, and clean energy."

Kan, who was prime minister from 2010 and 2011, concurred.

"Even if we do not rely on nuclear power and not use fossil fuels, there are enough renewables to supply the needed power," he said at a press conference. "This is true in Japan as well as other countries in the world."

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