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Ex-fishermen claim compensation for exposure to radiation

February 22, 2016

Ex-fishers claiming fallout exposure seek benefits



Feb. 22, 2016 - Updated 04:29 UTC+1


A group of Japanese citizens is seeking insurance benefits, claiming they and their family members were exposed to fallout from US nuclear tests in the Pacific while fishing more than 60 years ago.

The United States conducted hydrogen bomb tests on the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1954.

In a widely reported case, 23 crew members of the Fukuryu Maru Number 5 fishing boat were working in the area when the fallout occurred. One died 6 months later. They were paid relief money.

The 7 former fishermen and bereaved relatives now seeking workmen's compensation say they were on other boats at the time.

A citizens' group said on Sunday the men suffered cancer and other illness due to exposure from the same nuclear testing.

The group says the former fishermen from Kochi Prefecture plan to apply for mariners' insurance benefits on Friday.

The group says their seaman's pocket ledgers will confirm they were working in waters surrounding the Bikini Atoll at the time.

It also says statements by doctors who have analyzed their medical certificates show clear links between the exposure and their diseases.

If the connection is determined, their past treatment cost would be covered by the mariners insurance. They will also be eligible for an increase in their pension payments.
83-year-old Yutaka Kuwano in Kochi City is one of the former crewmembers. He says he was 21 when he saw black ashes falling like snowfalls while working near the Bikini Atoll.

Kuwano has had nose bleeds, an abnormal increase in the number of white blood cells and other symptoms since the incident. He had surgery after being diagnosed with stomach cancer 12 years ago.

Kuwano says boats and tuna catches were tested for radiation when they returned to Japan, but his crew wasn't checked. He says he hopes other former fishermen will be able to receive relief measures if his approval comes through.



February 21, 2016


Fishermen want workers' comp for diseases allegedly linked to 1954 U.S. H-bomb tests




Former fishing boat crew members who developed cancer or heart diseases after being exposed to fallout from U.S. nuclear tests in the Pacific will apply for mariners insurance benefits more than 60 years after their exposure.

If their illnesses are found to be related to doses of radiation, the benefits will be effectively treated as workmen’s compensation.

The planned claims involve five former crew members in their 80s and two relatives of the deceased fishing boat workers in Kochi Prefecture, according to the center for supporting victims of nuclear tests in the Pacific, a citizens’ group based in Sukumo, Kochi Prefecture.

The number may rise by several other claimants, according to the group.

The United States conducted 67 hydrogen bomb tests on the Bikini Atoll and Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958.

The Japanese government acknowledged that a crew of 23 aboard the No. 5 Fukuryu Maru tuna trawler was extensively exposed to fallout from a hydrogen bomb test on March 1, 1954. One of them died of an acute radiation injury six months later.

But it was the only case the government certified as falling victims to the U.S. nuclear testing.

The new claims will be filed with the Japan Health Insurance Association.

The claimants reportedly suffered from cancer, cerebral infarctions and other illnesses.

If their diseases were determined as being linked to their radiation exposure, their treatment costs will be covered.

Families of the deceased workers will be eligible to collect a survivor annuity.

One of the five former crew members showed a dose of up to 414 millisieverts during a check of his teeth for radiation exposure, according to Shin Toyoda, professor of radiation doses assessment at Okayama University of Science.

The figure is tantamount to the level survivors experienced from being within 1.6 kilometers from ground zero when the atomic bomb detonated above Hiroshima in 1945, Toyoda added.

There also exist the results of blood tests of other crew members from that time, showing a decline in their white cells.

Still, experts say that even if the scope of their radiation doses was established, it will be difficult to definitively conclude that their exposure from decades ago is responsible for the diseases they have incurred or their deaths.

It may be concluded that their current health conditions resulted from their lifestyles or other factors, they say.

Masatoshi Yamashita, who heads the secretariat of the center for supporting victims of nuclear tests in the Pacific, urged the public to pay heed to people who have never had access to relief measures despite their radiation exposure.

“At a time when we are asked whether we can live side by side with nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the entire society needs to share an understanding of what happened in the Marshall Islands,” Yamashita, 71, said.

After the No. 5 Fukuryu Maru fishing boat suffered exposure to fallout from the hydrogen bomb test, two former crew members and relatives of five former crew members became eligible for mariners’ insurance benefits.

But the government did not examine the cases of other fishermen who worked near the test sites in March and the following months that year.

A total of 1,000 vessels passed near the testing sites from March to May, including 270 that are believed to have sailed from Kochi Prefecture.

Hajime Kikima, a 71-year-old doctor who operates a clinic in Hamamatsu who has assisted former fishermen with exposure from the nuclear tests, called on the insurer to grant benefits to the claimants.

“They should be certified as eligible for insurance benefits since there is the fact that they were exposed to radiation and that they suffer from diseases whose causes are suspected to be linked to radiation,” he said.

(This article was written by Naomi Nishimura and Tatsuya Sato.)

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