TOKYO (AP) — Six people who lived in Fukushima at the time of the 2011 nuclear disaster and have since developed thyroid cancer filed a lawsuit Thursday demanding compensation from a utility company for their illness, which they say it was caused by the plant’s massive radiation leak.
Those affected, who are now between 17 and 27 years old and live both in Fukushima and abroad, demand that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings pay a total of 616 million yen ($5.4 million) in compensation.
One of the plaintiffs, identified only as a 20-year-old woman, said she has had to prioritize her health over her career and has seen the bias against thyroid cancer patients.
“But I decided to step forward and tell the truth in the hope of improving the situation for the almost 300 more people who are suffering like us,” he said.
Their lawyers point out that this is the first class action lawsuit filed in the country by residents of Fukushima for health problems related to the nuclear disaster 11 years ago.
At a press conference after filing the complaint with the Tokyo District Court, one of those affected and the mother of another said they hope the court will establish the correlation between the cancer and the radiation leaked from the plant. An expert committee commissioned by the prefectural government has so far ruled out the possible cause.
Those affected, who were between 6 and 16 years old at the time of the merger, were diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 2012 and 2018, according to their lawyers. Four of them had their glands completely removed and are on hormone treatment for life. One recounted that the cancer has since spread to other parts of his body. In two other cases, only part of the thyroid was removed.
More than 290 people have been diagnosed with or suspected of having this type of cancer, including 266 detected in a prefectural committee survey of some 380,000 residents who were 18 years old or younger at the time of the accident.
The incidence is 77 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, significantly higher than the usual 1-2 per million, the lawyers pointed out.
Prefectural officials and experts have said the high detection rate in Fukushima is due to overdiagnosis in many cases, which could have led to unnecessary treatment and operations.