Stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operator TEPCO revealed yesterday that it has been hit with yet another lawsuit over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, with US residents asking for US$5 billion in compensation.
The class lawsuit reportedly has been filed in a California court by 157 "US residents"* who were helping in relief operations at the time of the March 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima No. 1, which was triggered by a Magnitude 9 quake and mega-tsunami that inundated the plant.
The devastation resulted in multiple reactor meltdowns and explosions, which scattered radiation on land and sea during the globe’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine in 1986.
The plaintiffs were reportedly among those US residents who leant their support to the US military’s “Operation Tomodachi (Friend)" relief operations in the aftermath of the disasters. They claim that they were exposed to radiation as a result of improper design and management of the Fukushima No. 1 plant that ultimately led to the meltdowns and radioactive releases.
According to some reports, the suit was filed against TEPCO "and other parties" on Aug. 18 in the Southern District Court in California. The plaintiffs, who also include US sailors, are demanding US$5 billion to cover medical costs and treatment needed to recover from physical and mental damage brought about by the the disaster.
The plaintiffs are also hoping to combine their lawsuit with another that was filed in 2012 with a U.S. federal court in San Diego by a group of more than 400 former U.S. sailors, who were onboard ships, such as the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Regan, which lay offshore when a radioactive plume passed over them, causing extensive contamination to the vessels.
The sailors are suing the utility and nuclear reactor maker General Electric for up to $10 billion for a range of health problems, such as leukaemia, that they believe were caused by that radiation exposure. The ships were anchored off Japan’s Pacific Coast during the Operation Tomodachi relief operations.
The sailor’s lawyer, Charles Bonner, told me that servicemen and women believe TEPCO misled them about the scale of the nuclear disaster, and that subsequently the amount of radiation exposure had been far greater than they were led to believe, resulting in debilitating injuries and seven deaths, to date.
According to the docket report listed on legal information site Justia only US sailors who were on the USS Ronald Regan are included in this most recent lawsuit, which the report states has been filed against TEPCO and GE. The report also includes Charles Bonner's name.
*When I interviewed Bonner recently he told me that the lawsuits filed are on behalf of 70,000 US service people and their families who could eventually be shown to have been affected by the Fukushima accident. Presumably this is the reason why reports in are claiming the suit has been filed by "residents".
I will be publishing an interview with Charles Bonner over the next few days. Watch this space!