Financially strapped Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, has been slapped a US$1 billion lawsuit by the 79 US sailors who were the first respondents to the crisis three years ago. The sailors claimed the operator lied about the high level of radiation in the area as they carried out their humanitarian mission.
The sailors aboard USS Ronald Reagan never imagined that they too would become victims of the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Some of the sailors have developed a number of cancer cases. One of them has given birth to a child with birth defects, the lawsuit filed in federal court in San Diego said.
On their first day at Fukushima, the sailors said they got drenched in radioactive fallout. They noticed a cloud of warm air with a metallic taste poured over the Reagan. Thinking it was just a snow storm, the US sailors continued working, helping and rescuing. Some even jumped into the ocean just offshore to pull victims to safety. All drank and bathed in waters that were surely greatly contaminated by radioactive fallout and runoff.
As expected, Tepco has moved to file a motion to dismiss the new lawsuit. It said the commanders of the aircraft carrier should have at least the common sense to not only rely on the information the utility released as they determined the safety and health of the participating sailors.
"It's wholly implausible," the company said in its response, "that military commanders in charge of thousands of personnel and armed with some of the world's most sophisticated equipment, relied instead only on the press releases and public statements of a foreign electric utility company."
This is the second time the sailors targeted the utility. The first lawsuit filed in 2012 was dismissed because it named the Japanese government, which owns the utility. The judge said naming the Japanese government puts it beyond the reach of a US court.
The latest suit now named only Tepco.