Six people who were children living in Fukushima at the time of the 2011 nuclear disaster and who have since developed thyroid cancer presented a is suing Thursday demanding utility payment compensation for their illnesses, which they say were caused by massive radiation spewing from the nuclear plant.
The people, now between the ages of 17 and 27 and living in and out of Fukushima, are demanding that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings pay a total of 616 million yen ($5.4 million) in compensation.
One of the plaintiffs, identified only as a woman in her 20s, said she has had to prioritize her health over her career and has seen bias against thyroid cancer patients.
“But I decided to come forward and tell the truth in the hope of improving the situation of almost 300 other people who are also suffering like us.” He said.
Their lawyers said it is the first class action lawsuit in Japan brought by Fukushima residents for health problems related to the nuclear disaster 11 years ago.
At a news conference after filing their lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, one plaintiff and the mother of another said they hoped the court would establish a correlation between the cancer and the radiation that leaked from the plant. A panel of experts commissioned by the Fukushima prefectural government has so far ruled out the alleged cause.
The plaintiffs, who were between the ages of 6 and 16 at the time of the accident, were diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 2012 and 2018, their attorneys said. Four of them had their thyroid completely removed and require lifelong hormone treatment. One of them says that the cancer has since spread to other places. The other two had part of their thyroid removed.
The plaintiffs are from different parts of Fukushima, including Aizu, some 120 kilometers (72 miles) west of the plant, and some of them have since moved to the Tokyo area.
More than 290 people have been diagnosed with or suspected of having thyroid cancer, including 266 found as part of the Fukushima Prefectural panel survey of some 380,000 residents age 18 and younger at the time of the disaster. The occurrence rate of 77 per 100,000 people is significantly higher than the usual 1-2 per million, their lawyers say.
Prefectural officials and experts have said that the high detection rate in Fukushima is due to the overdiagnosis in many cases, which could have led to unnecessary treatment or surgery. Some also call for an end to general polls.
Kenichi Ido, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said his client’s cancer has progressed, none of the cases involved overdiagnosis and TEPCO should be liable for the radiation exposure unless the company can prove otherwise. .
At the time of the accident, the government was slow in its emergency response and evacuation in many places was delayed due to a lack of information about what was happening at the plant. Residents trying to flee in their cars clogged roads and were stranded for hours outside as radiation leaked from damaged reactors. Some residents headed to evacuation centers in the direction of the radiation flux.
In a trial seeking criminal liability for former TEPCO executives, the Tokyo District Court in 2019 declared innocent to three top officials, saying they could not have foreseen the disaster. The case has been appealed to a higher court.
(with information from AP)
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