Cancer lawsuit launched over Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster

27 January 2022, 08:54

Supporters of the six plaintiffs (Mari Yamaguchi/AP)
Japan Fukushima Lawsuit. Picture: PA

Six plaintiffs who were children in 2011 and are now aged between 17 and 27 have developed thyroid cancer.

Six people who were children living in Fukushima at the time of the 2011 nuclear disaster and have since developed thyroid cancer filed a lawsuit demanding a utility pay compensation for their illnesses, which they say were triggered by massive radiation spewed from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The people, now aged 17-27 and living in and outside of Fukushima, demand the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings pay a total of 616 million yen (5.4 million US dollars) 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 prejudice against thyroid cancer patients.

“But I decided to come forward and tell the truth in hopes of improving the situation for nearly 300 other people also suffering like us,” she said.

Their lawyers said it is the first group lawsuit in Japan filed by Fukushima residents over health problems linked to the nuclear disaster 11 years ago.

In a news conference after filing their lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, a plaintiff and the mother of another plaintiff said they hoped the court would establish a correlation between the cancer and radiation leaked from the plant.

Part of Futaba town of Fukushima prefecture, Japan (Kota Endo/AP)
Part of Futaba town of Fukushima prefecture, Japan (Kota Endo/AP)

An expert panel commissioned by the Fukushima prefectural government has so far ruled out the alleged cause.

The plaintiffs, who were six to 16 years old at the time of the meltdown, were diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 2012 and 2018, their lawyers said.

Four of them had their thyroid fully removed and need to take lifetime hormonal treatment.

One of them says the cancer has since spread elsewhere.

The other two had part of their thyroid removed.

The plaintiffs are from different parts of Fukushima, including Aizu, about 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 are suspected of having thyroid cancer, including 266 found as part of the Fukushima prefectural panel’s survey of some 380,000 residents aged 18 or 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.

Supporters march in support of the plaintiffs (Mari Yamaguchi/AP)
Supporters march in support of the plaintiffs (Mari Yamaguchi/AP)

Prefectural officials and experts have said the high detection rate in Fukushima is due to overdiagnosis in many cases, which might have led to unnecessary treatment or surgery.

Some also call for an end to the blanket surveys.

Kenichi Ido, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said his client’s cancer has progressed, that none of the cases involve overdiagnosis and that Tepco should be held accountable for radiation exposure unless the company can prove otherwise.

The government at the time of the accident was slow in its emergency response, and evacuation in many places was delayed due to a lack of disclosure about what was happening at the plant.

Residents trying to flee in their cars clogged roads and were stranded for hours outside while radiation leaked from the damaged reactors.

Some residents headed to evacuation centres in the direction of the radiation flow.

In a trial seeking criminal responsibility of former Tepco executives, the Tokyo District Court in 2019 found three top officials not guilty, saying they could not have foreseen the disaster.

The case has been appealed against to a high court.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Political rivals clashed at a press briefing

Political rivals clash in heated press conference after Texas shooting leaves 19 children dead

The shooter's mother insisted he was not violent

'My son was not violent' insists mother of Texas gunman who killed 21 at school

Texas School Shooting

Gunman warned of Texas school attack on social media

Police fire tear gas to disperse supporters of Pakistan’s key opposition party marching towards Islamabad

Police in Pakistan fire tear gas in bid to stop ex-PM Khan’s banned rally

Uziyah Garcia was among those killed in the shooting

Desperation becomes sorrow following Texas school shooting

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer

Put yourselves in shoes of these parents for once, senator urges after shooting

The archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, comforts families

Children killed in Texas shooting were barricaded in classroom with killer

Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine says Russia must withdraw to pre-war positions before talks can happen

Kim Jong Un

North Korea ‘fires suspected ICBM and two other missiles into sea’

Relatives hug outside school

Biden demands gun control after 19 children killed in US school shooting

Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights

Chinese leader defends record to UN human rights chief

Gas pipeline

Hungary proposes removing Russian oil embargo from EU summit agenda

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, centre, raises hands

Marcos Jr proclaimed next president of Philippines after landslide election win

A building ruined by shelling

Russian shelling ‘kills six civilians’ in Donbas region

Pakistan police

Roadblocks set up in Pakistani capital to thwart Imran Khan rally

Brian Kemp

Trump suffers stinging losses in Georgia Republican contests