By Jen Alic of Oilprice.com
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) lied about the dangers of radiation exposure, according to eight U.S. sailors involved in disaster relief operations following the March 2011 Fukushima meltdown.
Now the sailors are suing the Japanese company - the owner of the power plant that ended in the world's biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
The sailors were on board the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear-powered aircraft carried that helped with disaster relief, and they claim that TEPCO purposefully lied about the dangers of radiation exposure in order to ensure disaster relief after the earthquake and tsunami that led to a nuclear meltdown.
The sailors have filed a complaint in the U.S. federal court, claiming that the Japanese government gave them the false impression that the radiation leaking from Fukushima did not pose a threat. The sailors entered areas that were too close to the power plant during relief efforts as a result of this false impression. According to the sailors' legal team, Tokyo was "lying through its teeth about the reactor meltdown," assuring the disaster relief team that "everything is under control." The complaint alleges that TEPCO "lulled" the Navy into "a false sense of security."
The lawsuit claims that the Japanese authorities only belatedly admitted that radiation had leaked into the atmosphere.
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According to the sailors, they have been exposed to radiation poisoning and are seeking $10 million in damages each, plus $30 million in punitive damages and a judgment of $100 million for continued medical monitoring and treatment.
Tepco, of course, is already bankrupt and has been taken over by the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund after a capital injection of almost $12 billion (1 trillion yet). The Fund has 1.4 trillion yen earmarked for compensation to victims.
Why are only eight sailors of the 5,500-strong USS Reagan crew suing Tepco? Only six of the eight plaintiffs worked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier. The other two worked in the air contamination department.
What does the Japanese media think of the U.S. sailors' claims that they face irreparable harm to the life expectancy and the risk of cancer? Not much. The legal team claims that the eight sailors already suffer from ailments from radiation poisoning, such as internal bleeding and persistent migraines. But they can't prove these health problems are a result of Fukushima.
In the plaintiffs' favor however, is the fact that in October, TEPCO admitted it had played down known tsunami risks for fear of the political, financial and reputational cost.
The Japanese media are more skeptical about the reports being bandied about by the U.S. mainstream media. According to Japanese reports, the USS Ronald Reagan was docked 100 miles away from the plant, which is the evacuation distance recommended by the U.S. government. They also claim that the sailors were exposed to far less radiation than one would get from a month of exposure to background radiation from the sun.
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