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What conditions for nuclear workers compensation ?

February 18, 2012

Former nuclear worker, heart attack victim sues gov't over workers comp claim



FUKUOKA -- A former nuclear plant worker who suffered a heart attack decades after being exposed to radiation has filed suit against the government, demanding it recognize his claim for workers compensation.

Ryusuke Umeda, 76, a resident of Fukuoka, filed the suit with the Fukuoka District Court on Feb. 17. There is no precedent for nuclear plant workers in Japan being recognized as suffering from non-cancer diseases attributable to radiation exposure. However, similar cases may emerge on the heels of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, in which many workers have been exposed to radiation.

"We want to clarify the actual conditions of nuclear plant workers and maintain that the current criteria for recognizing workers compensation claims are wrong," said attorneys for the plaintiff.

According to the complaint and other sources, Umeda did plumbing and other work at Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tsuruga Power Station in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, and at Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s Shimane Nuclear Power Plant in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, in 1979. At the time, however, he was not given sufficient instruction on radiation protocols, and to boost efficiency he worked without a mask or sound-making dosimeter. Before long, he began suffering from nose bleeds and fatigue. He had a heart attack in 2000.

In 2008, he filed a workers compensation claim with a labor standards inspection office in Matsue, along with a statement from a doctor at Nagasaki University Hospital who examined him saying, "The possibility that his disease was partly triggered by radiation cannot be ruled out."

However, the labor standards inspection office dismissed his claim, citing an advisory by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) that non-cancer diseases are not included in the effects of radiation exposure if the dose was less than 100 millisieverts. Umeda's external radiation exposure reading was 8.6 millisieverts.

Umeda argued that the reading did not reflect actual conditions because he had taken off his dosimeter while working at the nuclear complexes. He also claimed that the causal relationship between radiation exposure and his condition should be recognized, citing a government guideline for recognizing sufferers of atomic bomb-related diseases that lists heart attacks as one of the health problems caused by radiation exposure.

The government declined to comment on the case, saying, "We haven't received the complaint yet."

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