This week’s featured article


Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has thrown his support behind a group of former U.S. sailors suing the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The sailors claim health problems they now suffer were caused by exposure to radiation after a triple meltdown at the plant following the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday in Carlsbad, California, with some of the plaintiffs, Koizumi said, “Those who gave their all to assist Japan are now suffering from serious illness. I can’t overlook them.”

The lawsuit was lodged in 2012 against plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which was last month renamed Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

The plaintiffs include crew members of the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which provided humanitarian relief along the tsunami-battered coastline in a mission dubbed Operation Tomodachi (meaning “friends”). Koizumi spent Sunday through Tuesday meeting 10 of the plaintiffs, asking about the nature of the disaster relief they undertook and their symptoms.

“I learned that the number of sick people is still increasing, and their symptoms are worsening,” he said at the conference.

Koizumi called on those in Japan, both for and against nuclear power, to come together to think of ways to help the ailing U.S. servicemen.

The group of about 400 former U.S. Navy sailors and marines alleges the utility did not provide accurate information about the dangers of radioactive material being emitted from the disaster-stricken plant. This led the U.S. military to judge the area as being safe to operate in, resulting in the radiation exposure, the group claims.

One of the plaintiffs at the news conference, Daniel Hair, said Koizumi’s involvement made him feel for the first time that Japan is paying serious attention to their plight.

According to lawyers for the group, seven of its members have died so far, including some from leukemia.

Koizumi came out in opposition to nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 disaster. He has repeatedly urged the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to halt its efforts to restart dormant reactors across Japan.

First published in The Japan Times on May 20.

Warm up

One-minute chat about Tohoku.


Collect words related to friends, e.g., sharing, interests, trust.

New words

1) sue: to bring legal action against someone or something; e.g., “After he was fired, he sued the company.”

2) symptom: a physical or mental sign of an illness; e.g., “She has all the symptoms of influenza.”

3) dormant: inactive; e.g., “The volcano is dormant, thankfully.”

Guess the headline

Former Prime Minister Koizumi backs U.S. s_ _ _ _ _ _ suing over Fukushima r_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


1) What has ex-Prime Minister Koizumi come out in support of?

2) According to the service members, what happened to them while they were working off the coast of Tohoku in 2011?

3) Do Koizumi and Abe have similar views on nuclear power?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Did you know about the U.S. sailors suffering with health problems after their work in Tohoku?

2) How do you think Japan should deal with their claims?

3) What action should be taken regarding nuclear power in Japan?


原子力発電所の爆発によって多くの人の生活や健康が打撃を受けたことは良く知られたことですが、その中に日本人を手助けしようと危険を冒して 原子力発電所に赴いた人たちがいることはどれほど知られているでしょうか。

大統領選挙の結果によってはアメリカとの関係が変わる可能性もささやかれている中、長い間パートナシップを組んでいる米国の原発健康被害者に 私たちはどのように応えていくべきなのでしょう。



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