Cancer patients seek damages from Fukushima operator — Analysis

Six children who suffered from the 2011 catastrophe are asking for compensation of nearly 5 million dollars.

On Thursday, Tokyo’s court heard six landmark cases filed against Fukushima’s operator. The plaintiffs were children at the time of the 2011 disaster – when the plant was crippled in a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami – and they developed thyroid cancer later in life.

This group seeks 616 millions yen ($4.9 Million) in damages against the Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdingsss (TEPCO). The plaintiffs believe the plant’s operator is responsible for their illnesses and the impact they’ve had on their lives.

“Because of the treatments, I could not attend university, or continue my studies for my future job, or go to a concert. I had to give up everything,”One of the plaintiffs was a 20-year-old woman who spoke in court. “I want to regain my healthy body, but that’s impossible no matter how hard I wish.”

Japan sees no issues in radioactive water discharge

According to the lawyers, the plaintiffs were aged between six and sixteen years at the time the tragedy occurred and they lived in various parts of Fukushima Prefecture. They were both diagnosed with thyroid cancer sometime between 2012 and 2018.

However, the TEPCO legal team stated to the court that plaintiffs weren’t exposed to sufficient radiation to cause cancer. They cited tests on around 1,000 children living near the plant. According to the data, more than half of them were not exposed to radiation at all, while the others received minor doses of radiation with no one exceeding 50 millisieverts – the annual limit for nuclear plant workers.

Cancer patients sue company behind Fukushima radiation

The landmark lawsuit – which is the first-ever class-action against TEPCO over health problems allegedly linked to the disaster – was filed in January this year. The lawsuit aims to establish a strong link between thyroid cancer cases, the 2011 disaster and its causes. This link was not found by any special experts or by regional governments that investigated the effects of the disaster on health.

Fukushima’s government had tested around 380,000 individuals aged 18 and under for thyroid cancer at the time. About 300 people were found to have cancer or suspected of having it. The plaintiffs’ legal team argues that the occurrence rate – about 77 per 100,000 – is significantly higher than the usual one to two cases per million, and can only be linked to radiation – a well-known risk factor for thyroid cancer. Experts and prefectural officials blame excessive screening and overdiagnosing for the unusual rates.

Fukushima was seriously damaged in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami and 9.0-magnitude Tohoku earthquakes. It was the most severe nuclear accident since 1986 Chernobyl.

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