National / Crime & Legal

150 Americans sue Tepco over Fukushima fallout

Kyodo

About 150 Americans including sailors are suing Tokyo Electric for $5 billion (¥545 billion) in compensation over radiation exposure from the 2011 triple reactor meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture, the utility said Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed at a federal court in California by U.S.-based residents including personnel involved in Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. military relief effort launched for the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, that tipped the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into meltdown.

The plaintiffs want Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco) and a U.S. company to set up a compensation fund to cover medical treatment and other related costs, the utility said without naming the company involved.

In Operation Tomodachi, which began two days after the earthquake and tsunami, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and other U.S. military resources and personnel were deployed to deliver supplies and undertake relief efforts throughout Tohoku.

After tsunami hit the six-reactor plant and flooded its power generators, the reactors lost their cooling systems, which forced reactors 1, 2 and 3 into meltdowns. The incident is the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl in 1986.

Tepco said the suit was filed on Aug. 18 local time, but that it has not yet received documents on the lawsuit and will examine the details and respond appropriately.

The plaintiffs claim the nuclear disaster was caused by the improper design and management of the plant by Tepco. They are also seeking compensation for physical and mental damage suffered as a result of the disaster.

The plaintiffs are also seeking to combine their lawsuit with another filed in 2012 with a U.S. federal court in San Diego by a group of former U.S. sailors, who are suing Tepco for health problems due to heavy radiation exposure during the relief operation.

The sailors argue they were exposed to radiation and suffered injury because Tepco misled them about the scale of the nuclear disaster.

The 2012 case was the first lawsuit against the utility filed with an overseas court in connection with its handling of the nuclear crisis.