U.S. Sailors Sue Japan For Lying About Radiation Dangers

By iScienceTimes Staff on December 28, 2012 11:45 AM EST

Fukushima Reactor
Workers wearing protective gear near the Fukushima reactor after the 2011 tsunami. U.S. sailors providing relief at the time are suing Japan for lying about the dangers. (Photo: Reuters)

Eight U.S. sailors are suing Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, for lying about the radioactive dangers surrounding the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant in the wake of the 2011 tsunami. The U.S. sailors suing Japan were stationed on the USS Ronald Reagan and served in Japan as part of relief efforts designed to help victims of the tsunami that claimed more than 18,000 lives. The suit was filed on behalf of Lindsay Cooper, James Sutton, Kim Gieseking, Charles Yarris, Robert Miller, Christopher Bittner, Eric Membrila and Judy Goodwin.

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The Japanese government was "lying through their teeth about the reactor meltdown" although it told the crew of USS Reagan that "everything is under control," the plaintiffs' lawyers Paul Garner said in the complaint. "The plaintiffs must now endure a lifetime of radiation poisoning and suffering."

The complaint also said data available to TEPCO indicated that radiation levels already had surpassed what "those living the same distance from Chernobyl experienced who subsequently developed cancer."

The U.S. sailors suing Japan claim to suffer from a variety of ailments related to radiation, from headaches and difficulty concentrating to rectal bleeding and thyroid problems.

"TEPCO and the government of Japan conspired and acted in concert, among other things, to create an illusory impression that the extent of the radiation that had leaked from the site of the FNPP was at levels that would not pose a threat to the plaintiffs, in order to promote its interests and those of the government of Japan, knowing that the information it disseminated was defective, incomplete and untrue, while omitting to disclose the extraordinary risks posed to the plaintiffs who were carrying out their assigned duties aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan," the complaint stated.

The U.S. sailors decided to sue Japan for $10 million each, as well as $30 million each in punitive damages and the creation of a $100 million fund to pay for their future medical expenses. The U.S. sailors came into contact with heavy doses of radiation near the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant when the Japanese government assured them that the radiation leak wasn't dangerous.

"No amount of money would compensate me if I'm 23 years old and I'm bleeding from my [behind] or have thyroid problems," Garner told Military.com. He said the U.S. sailors suing Japan isn't about the money, but about getting justice for people who rushed to aid Japan in its time of need.

Garner told the military news site that he was approached by Cooper initially, but was reluctant to file suit until subsequent investigations revealed other sailors on the USS Reagan were suffering from radiation-related ailments, including one sailor who has developed cancer.

"We just want the facts," Garner said. "Their approach since the beginning has been to deny ... the truth will come out."

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