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US Sailors & Families In Japan Contaminated By Fukushima Meltdown While DOD Stops Registry
KPFA WorkWeek radio which is part of the Morning Mix on KPFA Pacifica in Berkeley did an interview with US sailor Daryl Brooks who was contaminated in Japan while doing work to help the people of Fukushima and San Diego Attorney Paul Garner who is representing many sailors and their families who were contaminated during the meltdown. These sailors have sued the Tokyo Electric Power Company TEPCO which ran the nuclear plant. Many of these sailors were also on the U.S.S. Reagan
The nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan in March 11, 2011 not only contaminated the people of Japan but thousands of US service personnel including many who were helping in the rescue and support operation for the people of Fukushima. These sailors and their families are now feeling the affects of the radioactive contamination. According to reports they were not properly trained to do the decontamination work on helicopters and planes. Additionally the U.S.S. Reagan nuclear aircraft carrier was contaminated as a result of being off the coast of Fukushima.
The US government Department of Defense DOD is now also eliminating a register of all Japanese stationed military personnel and their health problems to limit liability by the US government and others for the contamination of these personnel.
The interview was done on February 4, 2013 a KPFA radio host Steve Zeltzer with WorkWeek radio.
To contact Workweek workweek [at] kpfa.org
US Navy sailors sue Japan for lying about Fukushima radiation
Published: 26 December, 2012, 23:36
Workers removing fresh nuclear fuel (black pole at centre), for the first time since last year's tsunami-sparked crisis, from the spent fuel pool of the Unit 4 nuclear reactor building at TEPCO's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo / Tepco)
American sailors have filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government for allegedly lying about the health risks they faced while assisting in rescue efforts after last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Crewmembers from the USS Ronald Reagan filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in San Diego, California this week in an attempt to hold Japan accountable for any long-term damage they’ll caused during “Operation Tomadachi,” the spring 2011 relief effort that sent sailors near the coast of Japan to assist in the days after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami ravaged the island nation and caused a level 7 meltdown at three reactors in the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
The plaintiffs, eight sailors from the 5,500 or so that were aboard the USS Reagan at the time, say Japan did not act honestly in regards to explaining the severity of the meltdown and the risks they faced in involving themselves in the relief efforts. They are asking the state-owned Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) for $10 million in compensatory damages, as well as another $30 million in punitive damages for fraud, negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, public and private nuisance and defective design, Courthouse News Service reports.
Additionally, the sailors want TEPCO to set up a $100 million fund to pay for any future medical expenses they’re accrue as a result of the relief effort.
Courthouse News claims that plaintiffs say in the complaint that TEPCO, "a wholly owned public benefit subsidiary of the government of Japan," misrepresented radiation levels after the meltdown in order to lull the US Navy "into a false sense of security."
Beginning only one day after the March 11 earthquake, the United States sent eventually 24,000 service members to assist in rescue efforts at a cost cited by the Japan Times as being nearly $90 million.
"Operation Tomodachi has proven the Japan-US alliance can function in an emergency in a well-coordinated manner. US military personnel have proven to the fullest degree they are acting for the benefit of the Japanese people,"National Defense Academy Professor Matake Kamiya told the Times earlier this year.
Today, however, sailors from the USS Reagan say they were misled about how severe the situation was.
"TEPCO pursued a policy to cause rescuers, including the plaintiffs, to rush into an unsafe area which was too close to the FNPP [Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant] that had been damaged. Relying upon the misrepresentations regarding health and safety made by TEPCO … the US Navy was lulled into a false sense of security," the complaint states.
"Defendant 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 USS Ronald Reagan."
The complaint further alleges that TEPCO claimed the levels of radiation the sailors would be subjected to “would not cause any different or greater harm to them than they may have experienced on missions in the past,” though the Americans say otherwise.
"At all times relevant times, the defendant, TEPCO, was aware that exposure to even a low dose of radiation creates a danger to one's health and that it is important to accurately report actual levels,” the defendants say.
"Defendants had actual and/or constructive knowledge of the properties of radiation that would ensure that, once released into the environment, radiation would spread further and in concentrations that would cause injury to the plaintiffs."
The sailors say they have put themselves in a situation where their potential to develop cancer has been enhanced and that they "face additional and irreparable harm to their life expectancy, which has been shortened and cannot be restored to its prior condition."
In August, over a year after the meltdown, fish were found near the site of the Fukushima plant containing with 258 times the level of contamination that the level government deems safe for consumption.
Are Sailors Symptoms From Fukushima Radiation? Lawyer says crew members had high exposure; Pentagon says Navy took 'proactive measures'
ARE SAILORS SYMPTOMS FROM RADIATION?
Lawyer says crew members had high exposure; Pentagon says Navy took ‘proactive measures’
Story by Jeanette Steele
Originally published January 13, 2013 at 12:01a.m., updated January 12, 2013 at 05:41p.m.
For more than three weeks following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, U.S. Navy sailor Lindsay Cooper set off a contamination warning when she left the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan.
A hand-held Geiger counter beeped when it passed over her, and she had to surrender a glove and boots more than once.
So perhaps it’s no wonder that Cooper, 23, and seven other Reagan sailors think that physical ailments since then are due to exposure to radioactive material from the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Eight sailors have filed a lawsuit against the Japanese power company, alleging that officials lied about the amount of leakage. It says the Navy used the company’s reports in its own calculations about the safety of U.S. sailors in the relief effort, called Operation Tomodachi.
The sailors describe rectal bleeding and other gastrointestinal trouble, unremitting headaches, hair loss and fatigue. Their lawyer says some already have thyroid and gallbladder cancer. All are in their 20s. One sailor, who was ordered to clean the Reagan’s air ducts, vomited soon after and felt sick enough to ask to leave the ship, the attorney said.
A ninth plaintiff in the suit is the 1-year-old daughter of a female sailor who didn’t know she was pregnant at the time. Pregnant mothers and children are more vulnerable to radiation.
But, contrary to what these sailors are experiencing, studies have found largely nondangerous radiation levels since the 2011 spill. Only workers at the nuclear facility have exhibited radiation amounts high enough to make them even slightly sick, scientists consulted for this story said.
One UC San Diego toxicology expert said that acute illness usually comes on quickly — in days or weeks — after massive exposure. Signs include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Unless there are fatalities, people feel better within a few months. So, with typical radiation sickness, these Reagan sailors wouldn’t still have symptoms today.
Long-term illnesses, such as cancer, may result from a smaller amount of radiation exposure, but the amount required to cause them is unclear. And that type of ailment wouldn’t come on this soon, less than two years after the incident, said Dr. Richard Clark, director of UC San Diego’s medical toxicology program.
“What I imagined happened in this case is these people developed a few symptoms and they started to get worried about it because they were told there was some higher radiation,” Clark said. “They scrubbed off the (Reagan’s) deck — that is normal procedure if there is fallout. But that fallout doesn’t mean you were exposed to levels of radiation that were dangerous.”
At a Health Physics Society conference last year at the National Press Club, a panel of radiation scientists predicted that illness from Fukushima will be far less than from the 1986 Chernobyl reactor disaster.
That’s because researchers knew enough in 2011 to advise people to stay indoors to avoid the passing radiation plume from the plant and to not consume food or milk or water from the region that might be contaminated.
Fewer than 150 of 17,000 workers at the Fukushima plant showed slightly elevated levels of radiation, according to figures from cancer specialist Dr. John Boice, a member of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. The doses detected might increase their lifetime risk of cancer by 2 percent, he said at the Press Club conference.
On the Reagan, the crew was ordered to close hatches and vents to prevent outside air from entering. They were also told not to drink the ship’s potable water.
The environmental lawyer representing the Reagan sailors said their radiation exposure exceeded the acceptable level, but he declined to place a figure on how much he suspects they received.
Attorney Paul Garner said he is awaiting disclosure from the Pentagon, the Navy and Japan about what their instruments showed. The Japanese Fukushima Daiichi power plant, on the coast 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, is owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco.
“We know it was higher levels than have been initially reported by the Tepco people as being low-dose,” Garner said. “It’s much worse than those who got radiation poisoning in Chernobyl and survived for a few years.”
The U.S. Defense Department has created a registry for the 70,000 Pentagon-affiliated people who were in Japan or off the coast during the first three months of the disaster. A website for this registry said that it would provide radiation exposure estimates for all 70,000 by the end of 2012.
However, figures for U.S. Navy ships serving off the coast of Japan — including the Reagan, and the San Diego-based warships Preble and Chancellorsville, plus the carrier George Washington and amphibious ship Essex, among several other American military vessels — are not yet available on the website.
The Navy’s largest ship base in Japan — in Yokosuka, about 185 miles southwest of the nuclear plant — measured levels that are minimal and well below dangerous, according to Pentagon figures.
Helicopters from the Reagan flew search-and-rescue missions over Japan in the days after the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. In April 2011, Camp Pendleton Marines from the Essex went ashore to help clear debris on Oshima, an island 45 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.
Garner said he plans to file additional lawsuits on behalf of other Navy and Marine Corps personnel who are now sick after Operation Tomodachi. The first lawsuit was filed Dec. 21 in San Diego federal court, and he expects to lodge a second there. Others may come in other jurisdictions.
The lawyer said he and his partners have launched a medical study of American personnel involved in the rescue mission. Calling it Operation Tomodachi Revisited, he said it is open to more participants at no cost to the service member. Blood tests will be taken.
Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Pentagon officials released a statement saying that the Navy took “proactive measures” to safeguard sailors.
With more than 5,000 people aboard, the Reagan was operating at sea about 100 miles northeast of the power plant after the earthquake.
Despite the ship passing through a plume of radioactivity, officials pegged the maximum exposure to the crew at less than the radiation received from a month’s exposure to natural background radiation from sources such as rocks, soil and the sun.
The Navy’s statement said that “most of this radioactivity did not deposit on the ship as the ship sailed through the plume and the very low levels of residual radioactivity that did deposit on the ship were mitigated and controlled.”
Cooper said she participated in one flight deck washdown that occurred after the Reagan’s radiation alarms went off a few days into Operation Tomodachi. A Navy photo shows sailors, some with scarves worn across their faces and mouths, pushing brooms to scrub the deck with soap and water. Garner said that the Navy used seawater for that cleanup.
Meanwhile, the tsunami’s waves breached the power plant, then washed back into the sea. A paper published by Stanford University in July estimated that most of the radioactivity went into the Pacific, and only 19 percent of the released material was deposited over land.
Two days after the disaster, the Navy said it had repositioned the Reagan after detecting low levels of contamination in the air and on 17 aircrew members who flew relief missions. Previously, the carrier had been downwind from the nuclear site.
Some aircrews were given iodine pills to combat the potential danger of radioactive iodide particles released by the plant. Garner said his clients — seven boatswain’s mates who worked on the flight deck and an air decontamination specialist — weren’t offered iodine, he said.
At the time, the Reagan’s skipper, Capt. Thom Burke, released a statement reassuring crew families that “as a nuclear-power aircraft carrier, we have extensive technical expertise onboard to properly monitor such types of risks.”
Garner said he believes the skipper as far as the carrier’s own nuclear reactors are monitored constantly for leaks.
“However, I would love to see his data of readings on the crewmen,” the lawyer said.
If he wins for his nine plaintiffs, Garner is seeking $10 million per client plus a $30 million punitive judgment against Tepco. The lawsuit also demands that the power company establish a $100 million fund to cover the sailors’ medical expenses.
Without proper training U.S.S. Reagan sailors were told to decontaminate planes and helicopters who were flying over Fukushima. Many of those personnel now have health problems due to radioactive contamination.
Japanese Doro-Mita railway workers protested orders that they work in contaminated areas near Fukushima
Fukushima nuclear plant workers continued to be contaminated as well as the community of Fukushima who are being told by the government to move back to within 4 miles of Fukushima