US sailors sue Tokyo Power for masking radiation danger

The fallout from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which devastated Japan is still going on, and now it’s affecting some United States military members. A group of sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan – who participated in rescue efforts during the disaster – are going to court saying that Tokyo Electric Power Company lied about the dangers posed by leaking radiation and have exposed the Americans to irreparable future damage.

Eight US Navy sailors are suing Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for hundreds of millions of dollars over allegations the Japanese firm lied to them about radiation dangers after a tsunami-triggered meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The sailors accuse TEPCO of deceiving their commanders about radiation levels as the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan took part in relief operations following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, according to a complaint filed in US federal court in southern California.

I still recall the outrage all over the news about the response of management at the reactor during the crisis. The statements they were releasing to the people of their own nation sounded more like some sort of Soviet propaganda after Chernobyl than responsible reporting and damage control. And for what? Who in this day and age could possibly think that the truth wouldn’t be coming out fairly quickly and that people wouldn’t be held accountable?

There are no specifics in any of the reports coming out thus far about medical problems being experienced today by the sailors from the Ronald Reagan, but we do know that one of them – Kim Gieseking – was pregnant during the operation and her one year old daughter is named as one of the plaintiffs in the case. But it’s apparently not the immediate effects which are the basis for the case.

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.”

When people show up to help you during a disaster of this magnitude they’re already putting their lives on the line. Assuming the complaint proves true and Tokyo Power knowingly lied about the radiation levels to get the Americans in there and working, this is despicable. It’s also not the sort of thing that money can fix, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be made to pay for their horrible performance. Of course, that doesn’t even begin to address the disservice they did to their own citizens in the vicinity of the reactor. This is yet another story which looks like there is simply no possibility of a happy ending.