Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s bill for its Fukushima nuclear disaster may swell as more U.S. service members pursue claims that the utility lied about radiation levels they faced while assisting in relief efforts in fallout zones after the March 11, 2011, megaquake and tsunami disaster.
Twenty-six plaintiffs refiled a suit this week, with as many as 100 others in the process of joining the legal action, in demands for more than $2 billion in compensation, the Stars and Stripes newspaper reported Saturday, citing attorneys. An initial complaint was filed Dec. 21 by eight U.S. Navy sailors.
The amended suit filed in California seeks at least $40 million in compensatory and punitive damages for each plaintiff, as well as a fund exceeding $1 billion, up from an earlier demand for $100 million, for monitoring health and payment of medical expenses, the report said.
Tepco and the Japanese government conspired to create the false impression that radiation leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 plant didn’t pose a threat to the sailors, according to the original complaint. As a result, the plaintiffs rushed into areas that were unsafe and too close to the power plant, exposing them to radiation, their lawyers said.
The Japanese government was “lying through their teeth about the reactor meltdown” as it reassured the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan that “everything is under control,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in the December complaint. “The plaintiffs must now endure a lifetime of radiation poisoning and suffering.”
Tepco “confirmed” changes, including an addition to the number of plaintiffs, were made on March 12 to a lawsuit originally filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, the utility said in a filing to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
The company “has not formally received the written complaint as of March 15,” it said in the filing. “Once the complaint is formally delivered to us, we will handle the case appropriately after reviewing the plaintiffs’ claims and demands,” Tepco said in the filing.
The utility hasn’t responded to two Bloomberg News requests for comment, left on the answering machine at its Tokyo offices outside business hours.
In July, the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund took control of Tepco in return for a ¥1 trillion capital injection after the disaster left the utility on the brink of bankruptcy. The utility projected compensation payments would exceed ¥2 trillion by the end of March, according to a statement released Feb. 22.
Four suits were filed against the government and Tepco this past March 11 by about 1,700 people who were living in northern Japan when the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster started, Kyodo News reported the same day, citing lawyers representing the cases. The plaintiffs in the four cases are demanding a combined ¥5.4 billion in damages, Kyodo said.
Wells for returnees
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has offered to dig some wells for returning residents of the village of Katsurao, about 30 km west of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, as part of compensation for their evacuation following the March 11, 2011, crisis.
Before the crisis, villagers had tapped water from a local river for various uses. Because soil in most part of the village has been found contaminated with radiation, however, Tepco has offered them other ways to get cleaner water as they are preparing to retun home. Groundwater in the village is considered safe.
At a meeting with Katsurao residents Sunday, the village accepted Tepco’s offer. A form of compensation other than payments is rare, according to the utility.