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Question of negligence hangs over nuclear firms in U.S. case over Fukushima fallout

Dear Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa,

As you may be aware, a federal judge in the U.S. recently ruled that a class-action lawsuit filed by about 200 U.S. Navy sailors can proceed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other defendants they blame for a variety of ailments caused by radiation exposure following the nuclear reactor meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1.

The sailors allege that Tepco knowingly and negligently gave false and misleading information concerning the true condition of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to the public, including the U.S. military. They further allege that Tepco knew the sailors on board the USS Ronald Reagan would be exposed to unsafe levels of radiation because Tepco was aware three nuclear reactors at the site had already melted down.

In this connection, the lawsuit notes that on Dec. 14, 2013, Naoto Kan, Japan’s prime minister at the time of the disaster, told a gathering of journalists regarding the first meltdown: “People think it was March 12 but the first meltdown occurred five hours after the earthquake.”

The sailors in question were participating in Operation Tomodachi, providing humanitarian relief in response to the Japanese government’s calls for assistance. In accordance with the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, these sailors literally risked their lives to aid and protect the people of Japan.

The sailors accuse Tepco of negligence, failure to warn of the dangers, and design defects in the construction and installation of the reactors, among a total of nine claims for damages. To date, the sailors have experienced such illnesses as leukemia, ulcers, brain cancer, brain tumors, testicular cancer, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, thyroid illnesses, stomach ailments and a host of other complaints unusual in such young adults.

One of the major questions to be decided by the lawsuit is who will pay for the military members’ ongoing and possibly lifelong medical treatment. In addition to addressing specific illnesses, funding will be required for future medical monitoring for themselves and their children, including monitoring for possible radiation-induced genetic mutations. Some of the radiological particles inhaled by these service personnel have long half-lives, from six to 50 or even 100 years.

Needless to say, the Japanese government has a wealth of information about what actually happened, and when, at Fukushima No. 1. Thus it would seem legally as well as morally appropriate for the government to share its Fukushima-related knowledge with the Federal Court in the Southern District of California.

This could be done, for example, in the form of an amicus curiae brief — that is, a brief submitted by someone not a party to a case who nevertheless possesses relevant information that may assist the court. My first question to you, Minister Miyazawa, is: Are you and the Japanese government willing to submit such a brief?

It is significant that the builders of the Fukushima No. 1 reactors — General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba and Hitachi — are also defendants. This is because the reactors for Units 1, 2 and 6 were supplied by General Electric, those for Units 3 and 5 by Toshiba, and Unit 4 by Hitachi. General Electric, however, designed all six reactors, and the architectural plans were done by EBASCO.

In particular, GE knew decades ago that the design of its Mark I reactors installed at Fukushima No. 1 was faulty. Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming convinced that the Mark I’s design was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident. They publicly testified before the U.S. Congress on the inability of the Mark I to handle the immense pressures that would result if the reactor lost cooling power.

Their concerns proved all too accurate at Fukushima No. 1, a disaster that has yet to end given the continued massive radioactive contamination of the ocean.

In light of this, Minister Miyazawa, I end this message with one final question: Why hasn’t the Japanese government, like the American sailors, filed its own lawsuits against these same companies to determine their legal liability? In other words, why are the Japanese people being forced to pay for the possibly negligent actions of some of the world’s largest corporations?

BRIAN VICTORIA

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Brian A. Victoria is a professor of Japanese Studies at Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Send your comments or submissions (of between 500-700 words, addressed to local, regional or national politicians, officials or other authorities) here: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • yellowroz

    I’ve been following the Fukushima disaster closely, with particular attention to the groundwater/seawater interface.

    The earthquake-tsunami was a horrific natural disaster. While there are preventive/protective measures TEPCO could have taken in advance to reduce damage, I do not believe they could have foreseen the hydrogen explosions sufficiently to ‘warn’ the USS Ronald Reagan. The relief efforts our Navy was heroically undertaking assisted Japan in recovering from almost 16,000 dead and enormous physical disruption.

    A voluntary settlement should be reached by all parties to establish a fund to address these heroes health effects and monitoring of their children. Money much better spent than on lawyers.

  • rickokona

    The USS Reagan is a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. As such it is replete with radiation detection devices. Why the Radiation Officer failed to act and why the Captain did not get the ship out of the prevailing winds is an enigma. The big ship should left the area post haste. It did move East but not out of the fallout. This tends to suggest over riding orders were in place. You may recall there was conversation about evacuation of US military bases in Tokyo. That too got quashed for the message it would send to the millions in Tokyo. Just shows that human engineering and human politics can and will foul any system. Some day the full truth will be known.

  • Richard Solomon

    The Japanese government has not filed a lawsuit against TEPCO, GE, or any other corporations responsible for the March 2011 disaster because it is more loyal to these corporations than it is to its own taxpayers let alone the US military personnel who risked their own health to help in the days and weeks following the ‘accident.’ The government’s use of this term, which implies it was all out of anyone’s responsibility, made clear from the start that it was more beholden to what some call ‘the nuclear village’ than its own people. As the old saying goes, ‘Money talks.’. And the nuclear village has lots of money to throw at government officials to keep them at bay.

    What I don’t understand is why the Japanese people themselves have not filed lawsuits against TEPCO, et al. Are they that passive?!?

  • Starviking

    And of course, the science says the claims are rubbish:

    “The adjusted incidence rate of malignant neoplasms (which can be radiogenic) in the RONALD REAGAN population was nearly 50 percent lower than the adjusted incidence rate of malignant neoplasms found in the control population.”

    “Only two adverse health conditions (three cases) were identified among the RONALD REAGAN sailors that are radiogenic. These include one case of non-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (non-CLL) and two cases of thyroid cancer. These numbers of cases are not unusual or unexpected among a population of nearly 5,000 individuals.

    With respect to these three cases, it’s important to understand that all radiogenic diseases have what is called a “latency period” between the time of exposure and the appearance of health effects…the minimum latency period for radiation-induced leukemia is 2 years and 5 years for solid cancers (including thyroid cancer).

    The dates of diagnosis for these three cases strongly suggest that these disease processes were initiated well before OT and therefore, are not
    causally related to low-level radiation exposures during OT.”

    So, I think the minister would be fully within his rights to ignore your request.

    Ref: http://www.tricare.mil/tma/congressionalinformation/downloads/Radiation%20Exposure.pdf

  • Starviking

    Do you have a reference for this “multi-billion dollar” radiation detection network?

    We got our environmental radiation info from our local universities.

  • Sam Gilman

    Yellowroz,

    Your answer is in the material you cite, which backs me up entirely. Many of these cancers are not associated with radiation exposure, and in any case, they’ve appeared way too soon.

    The American Cancer Society’s website explains how ionizing radiation, which refers to several types of particles and rays given off by radioactive materials, is one of the few scientifically proven carcinogens in human beings. Radiation exposure has been associated with most forms of leukaemia, as well as cancer of the thyroid, lung and breast. The time that may elapse between radiation exposure and cancer development can be anything between 10 and 40 years. (Emphasis added)

    It’s a good idea to read stuff before you cite it. It’s also good manners.

    In Chernobyl, the cancers that showed a rise were leukaemia in the most exposed responders, and thyroid cancer in children, which started to rise about four years after the accident. Their exposures were of course much, much higher than anything seen in Fukushima. Let me quote from UNSCEAR:

    Apart from the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence among those exposed at a young age, and some indication of an increased leukaemia and cataract incidence among the workers, there is no clearly demonstrated increase in the incidence of solid cancers or leukaemia due to radiation in the exposed populations. Neither is there any proof of other non-malignant disorders that are related to ionizing radiation. However, there were widespread psychological reactions to the accident, which were due to fear of the radiation, not to the actual radiation doses.

    http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobyl.html

    As for the other symptoms, such as bleeding and vomiting, and limb shrinkage, any comment on that? For these conditions to be related to the accident, we’d have thousands dead from radiation, rather than none.

    At a certain point one has to choose between what one wants to be true (no matter how gruesomely enchanting), and what actually is true.

  • igrandunifier

    Notice these shill, Sam n Starvedviking here, r working as a team. The nuke industry have becoming more sophisticated, since six months ago when I last encounter one. Only shill stay on theses sites n challenge the anti-nukers over n over. A professional nuke-site worker won’t waste their ‘free-tme’ try to defened every issue brought up here, n try to dicredit your research or read data. They got better things to do with their time n they’re getting pay any ways. And a real nuke-expert would just lay out his/her clam, n be done with it. Only shill hangs around, to nag u….

  • igrandunifier

    u r relying on the nuke industry’s propaganda n lies, n false datas, like the logs of the the USS naval ships travel. The log with only months shown but no years r indicated. N surely the navy wants u to know just exactly where their warship r located all the time!

  • igrandunifier

    That’s why there r hundreds of the sailors suing for their health, with 2 deaths so far…

  • igrandunifier

    Breitbart, by Kelli Serio, Jul 23, 2014: I was onboard the USS Ronald Reagan [and went] directly through a radiation cloud. The commanding officer warned us that our water and ventilation systems had been contaminated, posing a critical health risk to all of us onboard. We were advised to refrain from showering or DRINKING WATER… Sailors worked tirelessly… while being left vulnerable to dangerous levels of radiation… most of us onboard the ship were tested for radiation exposure and many came back positive, resulting in full-body scrubdowns… [W]e were issued gas masks… myself and other junior sailors were asked to don protective garments in an effort to decontaminate the ship… Proper medical care for the victims of radiation exposure [is needed, it’s a] dire situation for many… Many of us are enduring the unfortunate consequences [and] hoping for care from the VA that appears to never arrive… we are reassured of our good health, despite the presence of mysterious and unexplained symptoms… A lack of coverage by the mainstream media has left victims without a voice… We do not want to be forgotten.

  • Pearl

    People contaminated with radiation need to look into doing a detox with the mineral called zeolite that can safely remove the toxic radiation from their body.