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Six sue utility over Fukushima radiation

TOKYO (AP) – Six people who were children living in Fukushima at the time of the 2011 nuclear disaster and have since developed thyroid cancer filed a lawsuit yesterday demanding a utility pay compensation for their illnesses, which they said were triggered by massive radiation spewed from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The people, now aged 17-27 and living in and outside of Fukushima, demand the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings pay a total of JPY616 million in compensation.

One of the plaintiffs, identified only as a woman in her 20s, said she has had to prioritise her health over her career and has seen prejudice against thyroid cancer patients.

“But I decided to come forward and tell the truth in hopes of improving the situation for nearly 300 other people also suffering like us,” she said.

Their lawyers said it is the first group lawsuit in Japan filed by Fukushima residents over health problems linked to the nuclear disaster 11 years ago.

In a news conference after filing their lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, a plaintiff and the mother of another plaintiff said they hoped the court would establish a correlation between the cancer and radiation leaked from the plant.

Supporters and lawyers of the six young people who were living in the Fukushima region when the March 11, 2011 tsunami caused the nuclear disaster, arrive in front of the Tokyo district court in Tokyo to file a class-action lawsuit against plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) over claims they developed thyroid cancer due to exposure to radiation. PHOTO: AFP

An expert panel commissioned by the Fukushima prefectural government has so far ruled out the alleged cause.

The plaintiffs, who were six to 16 years old at the time of the meltdown, were diagnosed with thyroid cancer between 2012 and 2018, their lawyers said. Four of them had their thyroid fully removed and need to take lifetime hormonal treatment.

One of them said the cancer has since spread elsewhere. The other two had part of their thyroid removed. The plaintiffs are from different parts of Fukushima, including Aizu, about 120 kilometres west of the plant, and some of them have since moved to the Tokyo area.

More than 290 people have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having thyroid cancer, including 266 found as part of the Fukushima prefectural panel’s survey of some 380,000 residents aged 18 or younger at the time of the disaster.

The occurrence rate of 77 per 100,000 people is significantly higher than the usual one to two per million, their lawyers said.

Prefectural officials and experts have said the high detection rate in Fukushima is due to overdiagnosis in many cases, which might have led to unnecessary treatment or surgery.

Some also call for an end to the blanket surveys.

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