Wednesday, January 01, 2014

U.S. Sailors Sue Japan's TEPCO Over Radiation Sickness

The tip of the Fukushima iceberg; Japanese government will fall over this one issue alone


Several dozen US Navy sailors and Marines who conducted aid and rescue operations in earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan, carried out their international aid duties during a nuclear meltdown. The affected Naval personnel have filed a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Company, (TEPCO) for serious health problems; half of those suing TEPCO have cancer. 
USN sailor scrubs flight deck of USS Ronald Regan
The attorneys representing the sailors and Marines say many have developed brain tumors, uterine bleeding, thyroid cancer, Leukemia, digestive disorders and other health conditions typically caused by exposure to radiation. They were aboard the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, and half a dozen other Naval ships in the fleet.

Their ship was anchored a mile away from the Fukushima Daiichi energy plant, during the initial phase of the disaster. The plaintiffs say they could have taken different precautions and avoided becoming sick and possibly having their lives cut short, if TEPCO had exhibited proper responsibility and notified the US government that there was excessive radiation.

More than 70 military personnel are involved in the lawsuit, but one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, says a thousand times that many people are actually affected.

"This is civil rights environmental lawsuit not only for the victims but for all people impacted by nuclear power," said Attorney Charles Bonner, Co-Counsel for the Plaintiffs. "Seventy thousand first responders are at risk, in fact we're all at risk, the water will reach San Diego in 2015." 
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan wash down the flight deck to remove potential radiation contamination while operating off the coast of Japan providing humanitarian assistance in support of Operation Tomodachi on March 22, 2011. Editor's note:  While Getty purchased the rights to these images, they were sold illegally by the U.S. Navy and belong to the American taxpayer that paid for them with their tax dollars.  The U.S. government has no right to sell images taken by the Navy or any other government entity, and should be investigated and prosecuted  for taxpayer fraud and theft of public monies.  Consequently,Getty has no legal claim to them and they are now public domain.
The men and women say TEPCO downplayed the danger of nuclear radiation on the site. The carrier's water supply became contaminated, that in turn led to crew members drinking, washing their bodies and brushing their teeth with contaminated water. Attorney Paul Garner, who is representing 51 sailors, said, “We’re seeing leukemia, testicular cancer and unremitting gynecological bleeding requiring transfusions and other intervention.” Garner says clients are suffering thyroid polyps and other thyroid diseases. 
Abe will have tough time selling "smile to beat radiation to Navy
At this point, a judge has ruled that attorneys have until Jan 6, 2014, to re-file their case.

The attorneys are representing clients like Matthew Bradley, a US Marine active reservist, who worked with Marine helicopters in both administration and maintenance.

He says the Marines worked in the radioactivity for some time until steps were taken to protect them, "It wasn't until a couple of weeks later that they gave us 'paint suits', protective gear, but we were unprotected for several weeks."

Brady added, "I received no protection." His primary role was maintenance administration, but every Marine helps out with every job when there was down time. "So when we transported the contaminated parts to the supply I was in contact with the contaminated parts to replace them."

Another plaintiff, Lindsay Cooper, was a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. She says the radioactive air had a metallic taste and worries that the flight deck personnel were overexposed. "It went as far as them putting rubber boots on top of our work boots; that was the only preventative for us and the FA elements, the radiation on the deck."
Cooper says they did what they could to get rid of contaminated clothing, and there was a lot of it, "When we came flown from the flight deck and went through decontamination, they would scrub our boots and take readings off our clothing and if we had articles of clothing that were contaminated we took them off."
She says oftentimes there were people who were stripping down completely behind curtains, "...putting on little cloth suits so they could walk back to the berthing and change because they had their entire clothing taken away, we weren't really prepared for anything like that." 

Cooper and others state simply that these sailors were sent in unprepared. The Russians learned during the Chernobyl nuclear power disaster, that the aircraft and crews used to contain the problem would be short lived and they were, the people at least. The heavily contaminated helicopters used during that operation are all parked near Chernobyl forever.

Cooper said of the US aircraft, "When the first helicopter that came back with radiation, the boat really didn't know what do with it. The Navy had never been in a situation like that before where they were exposed to radiation. and they had a high amount of personnel who were going to be exposed. I honestly don't think the navy was ready to handle everything that happened."

"The entire command was concerned, they were doing everything possible to take care of us," Cooper said. That is good, because the Ferris Doctrine blocks current and past members of the US military from suing the government for anything.”

Another attorney in the case, Cabral Bonner, said, "Really what is the core of what we are talking about there is not what the US military should have done, we are talking about the US military responding to an emergency. It is not a military going in thinking, 'we have to be aware of this possible nuclear meltdown' because that wasn't something TEPCO was making known to people. Is TPECO providing their own government with proper information? No, that wasn't provided to people."

Bonner followed that statement by pointing to the obvious breakdown in communication between TEPCO officials and the first responders. "The men and women on board the ship are only as good as the information they are provided with."

Cooper says her ship and crew became world nuclear rejects after that, "No ports would let us in, Japan wouldn't let us in because we had too much radiation, Guam wouldn't let us in, Korea..." As the single mother of a 4-year-old girl named Serenity, she says her biggest worry is that she will eventually develop cancer.

Tokyo’s Mainichi newspaper reports that the deaths related to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima that struck following a catastrophic tsunami on March 11, 2011, have topped 1,600. These fatalities include people who died from radiation effects, fell victim of squalid living conditions and committed suicide. Fukushima became the world’s worst nuclear accident after Chernobyl. Some 52,000 people are still unable to return to their homes in the Fukushima area.


Tim King specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide. His years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine. Tim is the news editor for and holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and the The Red Cross
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