Six plaintiffs, who were children at the time of the 2011 disaster, are seeking nearly পাঁচ 5 million in damages.
A Tokyo court began hearing on Thursday in a landmark case filed by six cancer patients against the operator of the ill-fated Fukushima nuclear power plant. The plaintiffs were children during the 2011 disaster – when a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled the plant – and they later developed thyroid cancer.
The group is seeking a total compensation of 616 million yen ($ 4.9 million) from Fukushima operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO). Plaintiffs believe the plant operator is responsible for their illness and the impact it has had on their lives.
“Because of the treatment, I couldn’t go to university, or continue my studies for my future job, or go to concerts. I had to give up everything.” One of the plaintiffs, identified only as a woman in her 20s, told the court. “I want to restore my healthy body, but it is impossible no matter how much I wish.”
The plaintiffs, who ranged in age from six to 18 at the time of the disaster and lived in different parts of Fukushima prefecture, were diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 2012 and 2016, according to their lawyers.
The TEPCO legal team, however, told the court that the plaintiffs had not been exposed to sufficient radiation to cause cancer, citing tests performed on about 1,000 children living in the vicinity of the plant. According to the data, more than half of them did not come in contact with radiation, while others received only a small amount of radiation, with an annual limit for workers at the nuclear plant – no more than 50 millisieverts.
The landmark lawsuit – a first-class action against TEPCO for involvement in the disaster – was filed in January this year. Establishing a strong link between the incidence of thyroid cancer and the 2011 catastrophe is meant to be the focus of the case. No such link has yet been established by a special expert team or previously established by a regional government that has investigated the health impact of the disaster.
The Fukushima government tested about 380,000 residents aged 18 or under for thyroid cancer at the time of the accident, and about 300 were diagnosed with cancer or suspected cancer. The plaintiffs’ legal team argues that the incidence rate – about 77 per 100,000 – is significantly higher in one to two cases per million, and may only be associated with radiation – a well-known risk factor for thyroid cancer. Prefectural officials and experts have blamed excessive screening and additional diagnoses for abnormal rates.
The Fukushima Daiichi power plant was severely damaged by the 2011 9.0 magnitude Tohoku earthquake and subsequent devastating tsunami. The plant undergoes a catastrophic collapse, becoming the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl incident.
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