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Fukushima residents with thyroid cancer demand justice
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Fukushima residents with thyroid cancer demand justice
| Business News Today | Local News

Six people launched a class action lawsuit in Japan on Thursday to try to have the link that they believe existed between their thyroid cancer and their exposure to radiation after the Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011 recognized.

The young plaintiffs, now aged 17 to 27, were all minors and lived in the department of Fukushima (northeast of Japan) at the time of the nuclear disaster.

Their lawyers went to the Tokyo court on Thursday, before which several dozen supporters of their cause had gathered, to launch this group action, the first of its kind initiated by residents. They are claiming a total of 616 million yen (4.8 million euros) in damages from Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The causal link between exposure to Fukushima radiation and the appearance of thyroid cancer has never been officially recognized by the Japanese authorities. A UN report published last year also noted that “no adverse effects on the health of the inhabitants have been documented”.

But the plaintiffs’ lawyers point out that the cancers of these are not hereditary and that it is therefore very likely that they were caused by their exposure to radiation. Some of them “had difficulty continuing their studies and finding a job, and even had to give up on their dreams,” Kenichi Ido, one of their lawyers, told AFP.

fear of discrimination

Bringing this action “took us ten years because we were afraid of being discriminated against” by speaking out publicly, one of the complainants said at a press conference. “I was a child when I was told I had cancer and I had no money for legal costs,” she added, explaining the difficulty of “expressing in words what that one feels when one is too young”. In tears, the young woman also mentioned the day she learned that she had cancer: “I was clearly told that there was no link” with the nuclear accident.

The plaintiffs were diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 2012 and 2018. Four of them had their thyroid completely removed and will have to undergo hormone treatment all their lives, Kenichi Ido said. The other two underwent partial removal of the thyroid.

On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan triggered a massive tsunami that caused the cores of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to melt, releasing large amounts of radiation into the air. , which settled on the ground and in the water.

Some 100,000 people had to flee their homes after the disaster which claimed 19,000 lives, mainly caused by the tsunami. No deaths have been attributed to direct exposure to radiation, but the stress and hardships of all kinds caused by the triple catastrophe have claimed the lives of more than 2,300 people since, according to official investigations.

266 cases detected

Several people who subsequently worked on the plant’s dismantling site developed cancers after being exposed to radiation, which were recognized as an occupational disease, and they received compensation from the Japanese government.

A spokesman for Tepco told AFP that the group would respond “honestly” to the legal action initiated on Thursday, after examining in detail the claims of the plaintiffs.

“We would like to express our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused by the accident to the people, especially the residents of Fukushima,” he added.

Since the disaster, the Fukushima prefecture has tested some 380,000 residents aged 18 or younger, and as of last June 266 cases or suspected cases of thyroid cancer have been detected among them, according to a local official.

In a report published in early 2021, the United Nations Committee for the Study of the Effects of Ionizing Radiation (UNSCEAR), however, attributed the increase in the number of detected cases to the “ultrasensitive screening procedures” put in place in Fukushima.

Fukushima residents with thyroid cancer demand justice
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