May 26, 2022
On May 26, a class action lawsuit began in which six people who were children at the time of the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are seeking compensation from TEPCO for thyroid cancer they contracted as a result of the accident.
The six, who were between the ages of 6 and 16 when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident occurred 11 years ago, claim that they were living in Fukushima Prefecture at the time and that they developed thyroid cancer as a result of radiation exposure from the nuclear accident.
After the accident, they were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in tests conducted by Fukushima Prefecture, and have been forced to have their thyroid glands removed and undergo lifelong hormone treatment.
The trial will begin on March 26 at the Tokyo District Court, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers have stated that, “According to statistics from a national research institute, the average number of thyroid cancer cases in children was only one to two per million people per year for the 10 years until 2007, but in Fukushima, at least 293 cases have been confirmed in the 10 years since the accident. In Fukushima, however, at least a total of 293 cases of cancer have been confirmed in the 10 years since the accident,” and that “the cancer is presumed to be caused by exposure to radiation from the accident.
A female plaintiff stated, “I prioritized treatment over my dreams for the future and had no choice but to quit my university studies. I hope that through the trial, relief for the patients will be realized,” she tearfully appealed.
According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, this is the first class action lawsuit to hold TEPCO responsible for the health damage caused by radiation exposure from the nuclear power plant accident, and TEPCO has indicated that it will fight the case.
The next meeting will be held in September, and TEPCO is scheduled to make a rebuttal.
The Fukushima Prefecture’s expert panel and the UN scientific committee’s opinion is
The Fukushima Prefectural Expert Panel and the United Nations Scientific Committee have each expressed their opinions on whether the thyroid cancer diagnosed in some children living in Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was caused by exposure to radiation from the nuclear power plant accident.
As part of its post-nuclear accident health survey, Fukushima Prefecture conducted a large-scale test using ultrasound equipment to check for thyroid cancer in approximately 380,000 people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the accident.
Fukushima Prefecture has established a committee of experts to analyze whether the cancers found were caused by radiation exposure.
Of these, 187 have been evaluated by 2019, and a report has been compiled stating that “no relationship between the thyroid cancers found and radiation exposure can be found”.
The reasons given were that the estimated radiation doses received by children in Fukushima Prefecture after the accident were much lower than those received in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, and that there was no statistical bias in the regional distribution of cancer patients and no trend indicating an association with radiation exposure.
The expert panel is still analyzing the remaining 87 people diagnosed after FY2016, and the results of the evaluation have not yet been presented.
On the other hand, the UN Scientific Committee, which evaluates the effects of radiation on humans and the environment, estimated radiation doses last year based on the type and amount of radioactive materials released by the accident and the evacuation behavior of the residents, and concluded that “it is unlikely that any health effects directly attributable to radiation exposure caused by the accident will be observed in the residents of Fukushima Prefecture in the future. The report states that “the likelihood of health effects directly caused by radiation exposure in Fukushima Prefecture in the future is low.
The report also stated that the cases diagnosed in Fukushima Prefecture “are not the result of radiation exposure, but rather the result of highly sensitive ultrasound examinations that are likely to have diagnosed cancers that would not normally be detected,” and expressed a negative opinion on the causal relationship between thyroid cancer and the cases.
TEPCO “will listen to the plaintiffs’ claims in detail and respond appropriately.
TEPCO said, “We will listen to the plaintiffs’ claims and the details of their claims in detail and respond appropriately. TEPCO once again expresses its sincere apology to the people of Fukushima Prefecture and the wider community for the inconvenience and concern caused by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The plaintiff, a woman in her 20s, said
The six young people who filed the lawsuit claim that they were diagnosed with cancer and that it has affected the future they had envisioned.
One of the plaintiffs, a woman in her 20s from Nakadori, Fukushima Prefecture, was a junior high school student when the nuclear accident occurred.
It was in the spring, about four years after the accident, that she felt a change in her health.
She had just left her family in Fukushima and started living alone when she entered university.
Her body was swollen all over, her menstrual period came once every two weeks, her skin became rough, and she began to feel a strong discomfort in her throat and body pain.
After consulting with her family, she underwent an examination as part of the prefectural health survey conducted by Fukushima Prefecture after the nuclear power plant accident, and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
The woman recalls her feelings at the time, “I had hoped that the surgery would improve my health, but even after the surgery, I continued to feel ill easily, and I became increasingly worried that the cancer might recur or spread.
However, her health did not improve as expected, and she had no choice but to leave the company after about a year and a half in order to prioritize her treatment.
Even now, regular visits to the hospital and medication are essential for her. “I had longed to be a career woman who worked hard, but I now have to prioritize my health in everything I do,” she said. I am worried that it will affect my future choices of marriage and childbirth,” she confides.
Regarding the relationship between exposure to radiation from the nuclear accident and thyroid cancer, the Fukushima prefectural government’s expert panel has so far stated that “no relationship has been found.
All of the plaintiffs, including the woman, are going to trial without revealing their faces or names publicly, as some have criticized them for claiming health problems caused by exposure to radiation as Fukushima is making progress toward recovery.
The woman said, “I was afraid that I would be discriminated against if people knew that I was from Fukushima Prefecture and had thyroid cancer, so I could hardly tell anyone until now,” adding, “I thought there were many people who suffered from cancer as well and had to give up their dreams such as higher education and employment, or who could not speak up for fear of discrimination and prejudice, and I became an adult first. I decided that I would be the one to show courage. I would like to clarify the facts through the trial and seek redress for the damage.