• U.S. servicemen who helped at Fukushima file suit over failure to warn about dangers
By John Friend
A group of United States military personnel who participated in rescue and relief missions in Japan following the March 2011 tsunami that caused a near meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are suing the Japanese power company, which maintains the nuclear power plant. They claim company officials failed to properly warn the American servicemen of the risks of nuclear contamination and radiation they faced while conducting their mission.
The 51 plaintiffs comprising American sailors and Marines, many of whom served on the USS Ronald Reagan, are said to be suffering from a variety of cancers and other severe health ailments, including thyroid and testicular cancer, leukemia and brain tumors. They allege these came as a direct result of their participation in rescue and humanitarian assistance efforts following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, according to a report published by Stars and Stripes, a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) news outlet operating from inside the DoD, but editorially separate from it. According to their website, “only Stars and Stripes is guaranteed First Amendment privileges that are subject to Congressional oversight.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Hair, a crewman on the Reagan, explained to Stars and Stripes that he began experiencing major health problems only five months after returning home from the humanitarian mission to Japan.
“I live in pain every day,” Hair told the DoD publication. “I went from this guy in top physical condition to a deteriorating body and a whacked-out mindset.”
The sailors were consuming, cooking with and bathing in desalinized water while on board the aircraft carrier. However, the water contained high levels of radiation, resulting in severe health impacts to many of the crew members, according to the plaintiffs.
Not all sailors agree with the plaintiff’s claims. A review of the “Comments” section of the Stars and Stripes article displays posts from at least one alleged nuclear operator serving aboard another ship in the area at the same time.
David McFarland wrote, “I took surveys for Fukushima, as did several of my friends on the Reagan, and as trained nuclear operators with firsthand knowledge, we call these claims nonsensical and misguided idiocy.” He also wrote, “notice how none of us Navy Nuclear Operators are freaking out over this? Only the people who have no idea what they’re talking about are—it’s just idiots trying to make a buck.”
The 51 American servicemen currently suing the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) may have more plaintiffs joining them. An additional 150 crew members are currently being medically screened, and may end up participating in the lawsuit as well, according to Al Jazeera America.
Attorney Charles Bonner is representing the sailors in their class action lawsuit against TEPCO. The plaintiffs are each seeking $40 million in damages from TEPCO, in addition to a $1 billion fund set up for any future medical expenses for military personnel impacted by radiation exposure in rescue and relief missions in Japan.
Earlier this summer, attorneys for TEPCO sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the plaintiffs have been unable to prove their health ailments are a direct result of their experience in Japan.
John Friend is a writer who lives in California.