Cancer patients seek damages from Fukushima nuclear plant

May 26, 2022, 5:01 AM | Updated: 7:30 am
Lawyer Kenichi Ido, second left, sitting among other lawyers representing plaintiffs who were child...

Lawyer Kenichi Ido, second left, sitting among other lawyers representing plaintiffs who were children in Fukushima at the time of the 2011 nuclear disaster and later developed thyroid cancer, speaks during a news conference after a trial in Tokyo, Thursday, May 26, 2022. A Tokyo court began hearing a case Thursday seeking nearly $5 million in damages for six people who lived as children in Fukushima and developed thyroid cancer after its 2011 nuclear disaster. (AP Photo/Mari Yamaguchi)

(AP Photo/Mari Yamaguchi)

TOKYO (AP) — A Tokyo court began hearings Thursday in a lawsuit seeking nearly $5 million in damages for six people who were children in Fukushima at the time of its 2011 nuclear power plant disaster and later developed thyroid cancer.

The plaintiffs are suing the operator of the nuclear plant, saying radiation released in the accident caused their illnesses.

It is the first group lawsuit filed by Fukushima residents over health problems allegedly linked to the disaster, their lawyers say.

One plaintiff, identified only as a woman in her 20s, testified from behind a screen that she had to give up plans to attend university because of repeated operations and treatments.

“Because of the treatments, I could not attend university, or continue my studies for my future job, or go to a concert. I had to give up everything,” she said. “I want to regain my healthy body, but that’s impossible no matter how hard I wish.”

She and the five other plaintiffs are seeking a total of 616 million yen ($4.9 million) in damages from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings for allegedly causing their cancers.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami destroyed the Fukushima plant’s cooling systems, causing three reactor cores to melt and release large amounts of radiation. Critics say the plant operator should have known that a large tsunami was possible at the site.

The plaintiffs, who were 6 to 16 years old at the time of the accident and lived in different parts of Fukushima, were diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 2012 and 2018, their lawyers said.

The plant operator told the court that they were not exposed to enough radiation to cause cancer, citing tests of 1,080 children from three cities around the plant that showed about 55% were not exposed and none received more than 50 millisieverts, the annual limit for nuclear workers.

An increase in thyroid cancer was found among children following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine.

The Fukushima prefectural government tested 380,000 residents aged 18 or younger at the time of the accident for thyroid cancer. About 300 were diagnosed with cancer or suspected cancer.

That occurrence rate, about 77 per 100,000, is significantly higher than the usual 1-2 per million and can only be linked to radiation from the accident, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

Prefectural officials and experts have said the high level of thyroid cancer found in Fukushima is due to an overdiagnosis, which might have led to unnecessary treatment.

Kenichi Ido, one of the lawyers, said none of the cases involve an overdiagnosis and that the plant operator should be held accountable for radiation exposure unless it can prove otherwise.

The plaintiff who testified Thursday said she walked from home to her high school five days after the tsunami, just as the reactors were undergoing meltdowns.

Three other plaintiffs who attended the hearing were also behind a partition to protect their privacy because of criticism on social media accusing them of fabricating their illnesses and hurting the image of Fukushima, the lawyers said.

Ido said many people with health problems feel intimidated to speak out in Fukushima and that he hopes the lawsuit will prove a correlation between radiation and the plaintiffs’ cancers “so that we can have a society in which people can talk freely about their difficulties.”

The government was slow in responding to the crisis, and evacuations in many places were delayed due to a lack of disclosure of what was happening at the nuclear plant. Residents who fled in their cars clogged roads and were stranded for hours outside while radiation spread from the damaged reactors. Some residents headed to evacuation centers in the direction of the radiation flow.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban government, speaks during a press conference in Ka...
Associated Press

Taliban supreme leader prays for Afghanistan’s quake victims

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban’s supreme leader offered prayers Friday for Afghanistan’s earthquake victims during a speech to Islamic clerics in Kabul. The tremor in June killed more than 1,000 people in the eastern part of the country. State radio aired Haibatullah Akhundzada’s speech live Friday from the gathering in Kabul, where thousands of Islamic […]
4 hours ago
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, a damaged residential building is seen i...
Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missile attacks on residential areas in a coastal town near the Ukrainian port city of Odesa early Friday killed at least 19 people, authorities reported, a day after Russian forces withdrew from a strategic Black Sea island. Video of the pre-dawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

UK government faces new boozy scandal as deputy whip quits

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government is facing another boozy scandal after the deputy chief whip resigned from his post following a drunken incident this week, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing calls on Friday to expel him from the Conservative Party. Chris Pincher, whose role was to maintain discipline among Tory members of Parliament, submitted […]
4 hours ago
A Volvo XC40 electric vehicle is shown on, Dec. 13, 2021. Sweden's luxury car maker Volvo Cars will...
Associated Press

Volvo to build $1.25 billion electric car plant in Slovakia

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Swedish luxury vehicle maker Volvo Cars plans to build a new European plant in eastern Slovakia, the country’s economy minister said Friday. Volvo’s third European plant will be located in Kosice, Slovakia’s second-largest city, Economy Minister Richard Sulik said. Volvo will receive about 20% of the 1.2 billion euros ($1.25 billion) […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

Turkey blocks access to Deutsche Welle and Voice of America

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s media watchdog has banned access to the Turkish services of U.S. public service broadcaster Voice of America and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, prompting criticism of censorship. The Supreme Board of Radio and Television enforced a February decision requiring international media that air television content in Turkish online to apply for a […]
4 hours ago
FILE - A customer pays for vegetables at the Maravillas market in Madrid, on May 12, 2022. Inflatio...
Associated Press

Inflation in 19 countries using euro hits record 8.6%

LONDON (AP) — Inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro currency hit a record 8.6% in June, pushed higher by a strong increase in energy costs fueled partly by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Food prices also picked up pace. Annual inflation in the eurozone surged past the 8.1% recorded in May, according to […]
4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Cancer patients seek damages from Fukushima nuclear plant