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Fukushima worker's case setting a precedent?

October 21, 2015


Leukemia-stricken Fukushima welder hopes he is first of many granted workers' comp



By YURI OIWA/ Staff Writer

A welder who was the first worker to win compensation from the government after contracting leukemia following radiation exposure at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant hopes his victory will lead the way for similar cases.

“I was fortunate to be the first, and I hope that my case will give impetus for other nuclear plant workers who suffer from cancer to receive compensation,” said the man, 41, in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun. “If there are other people who worked at the Fukushima plant and became cancer patients, I hope they promptly get proper compensation.”

The health ministry announced Oct. 20 that it had awarded workers' compensation to the married father of three children, who was exposed to radiation at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture following the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The man, who lives in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, formerly worked for Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s partner company, and was engaged in construction and welding activities near the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the crippled plant between 2012 and 2013.

He said he was notified by phone of the ministry’s decision to award compensation from an official at a labor standards inspection office on the morning of Oct. 20.

“I was relieved to hear the decision,” he said.

The man was first diagnosed as suffering from acute myelogenous leukemia during a checkup in January 2014, two weeks after he left the Fukushima plant.

While he had been exposed to 16 millisieverts of radiation at the Fukushima facility by that time, he also received a dose of 4 millisieverts during a three-month periodic inspection of the Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture in 2012.

“Initially, I did not think the illness was caused by radiation exposure,” the man said.

At one time, he became critically ill from an infection as his immunity had deteriorated through the use of anticancer drugs. He said he desperately fought to stay alive because he was worried about his family's financial situation if it was deprived of its breadwinner.

His cancer is now in remission with it no longer being detectable by medical tests, but the possibility for a relapse remains. He has no idea when he can return to his welding job.

But the man emphasized he does not regret applying to work at the Fukushima plant.

“I decided to go to Fukushima hoping that I could make some contribution to the recovery of the disaster-stricken communities, and I have no regret over my decision,” he said.

He said he has heard about a case of another former worker who contracted leukemia after working for many years at nuclear power plants. That worker could not file an application for the government compensation as his company did not recognize a causal link between the disease and his job.

According to government insurance standards for nuclear industry workers introduced in 1976, the government pays compensation to workers who are exposed to 5 millisieverts or higher levels of radiation annually and develop leukemia more than a year after they first engaged in work that could expose them to radiation, if other factors can be excluded.

During a news conference on Oct. 20, the health ministry officials said the certification of compensation did not mean that a link between radiation exposure and effects on his health had been scientifically proved.

“Based on the spirit of workers’ compensation insurance, we gave consideration to his case from a standpoint that he should not miss compensation (he might be eligible for),” a ministry official said.

“We also took into account that the maximum permissible radiation dose for ordinary people was 5 millisieverts annually when it was introduced in 1976,” the official said.



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