28 Décembre 2012
December 28, 2012
NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- Eight of the U.S. sailors who took part in a relief operation in Japan in the wake of the March 2011 disaster have lodged a damages suit against Tokyo Electric Power Co., saying they were exposed to radiation and suffered injury because the utility misled them about the impact of its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
In the lawsuit filed Dec. 21 with U.S. federal court in San Diego, each plaintiff is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages. The suit also calls for punitive damages of $30 million.
The sailors were among the members of the U.S. Navy crew attached to the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan that was dispatched to off the coast of northeastern Japan for "Operation Tomodachi," right after the region was devastated by a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Tomodachi means "friends" in Japanese.
The utility, also known as TEPCO, said this is the first lawsuit against the company filed with an overseas court that concerns its handling of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and said, "We would like to withhold any comments since we have not received the lawsuit documents."
The suit lists as the plaintiffs Lindsay Cooper, who served as an aviation boatswain's mate on the flight deck, and seven other sailors as well as a daughter born to one of the sailors in October 2011.
"The defendant, TEPCO, created an increased risk of radiation exposure to the plaintiffs by failing to provide them with warning of the actual increased risk of exposure," the suit said.
Relying on TEPCO's misrepresentations about health and safety, "the U.S. Navy was lulled into a false sense of security" and the crew of the Reagan "believed it was safe to operate within the waters adjacent to the Fukushima plant, according to the suit.
"Solely a result of the defendant's negligence, carelessness and recklessness, the plaintiffs were caused to suffer severe and serious personal injuries to mind and body," it said.
Operation Tomodachi started on March 13, two days after the quake and tsunami struck the Pacific coast of northeastern Japan and mangled the Fukushima plant. The operation delivered supplies and undertook other relief works mobilizing the aircraft carrier and other U.S. military resources and personnel.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. is being sued for tens of millions of dollars by eight U.S. Navy sailors who claim that they were unwittingly exposed to radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns and that Tepco lied about the dangers.
The sailors aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan were involved in the Operation Tomodachi disaster relief operations following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region and led to the nuclear catastrophe, according to their complaint filed in U.S. federal court in San Diego on Dec. 21.
Tepco and the Japanese government conspired to create the false impression that radiation leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 plant didn't pose a threat to the sailors, according to the complaint. As a result, the plaintiffs rushed to areas that were unsafe and too close to the facility, exposing them to radiation, their lawyers said.
The Japanese government was "lying through their teeth about the reactor meltdown" crisis, as it reassured the USS Reagan crew that "everything is under control," the plaintiffs' lawyers said in the complaint. "The plaintiffs must now endure a lifetime of radiation poisoning and suffering."
The sailors are each seeking $10 million in damages, $30 million in punitive damages and a judgment requiring the creation of a $100 million fund to pay for their medical monitoring and treatments.
"We can't comment as we have not received the complaint document yet," Yusuke Kunikage, a Tepco spokesman, said Thursday. "We will consider a response after examining the claim."
In July, the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund took control of Tepco in return for a ¥1 trillion capital injection after the disaster left the utility on the brink of bankruptcy. The utility received ¥1.4 trillion in state funds to compensate those affected by the disaster.