US Sailors Sue Claiming Fukushima Disaster Gave Them Cancer

More than 50 US sailors are suing Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for contracting cancer while helping Japan during the tsunami that caused the country’s Fukushima nuclear plant to melt down and spew radiation into the ocean.

US sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Essex have contracted various cancers due to their service. From thyroid and testicular cancer, to leukemia and brain tumors, these young sailors have contracted life-threatening diseases.

The sailors say that they may have contracted these cancers by drinking the desalinated water aboard ship that was made from waters taken from the ocean while they were in and around Japan.

“In a lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plaintiffs claim the power company delayed telling the U.S. Navy the tsunami had caused a nuclear meltdown, sending huge amounts of contaminated water into the sea and, ultimately, into the ship’s water system,” Fox News reports.

“At our level, we weren’t told anything,” former USS Reagan quartermaster, Jamie Plym told Fox News. “We were told everything was OK.”
But now these 50 some sailors are angry and they feel they were lied to.

“I get so angry,” Plym said. “They said as long as the plume was avoided we would be fine. But we knew then that something was going to happen. Common sense tells you that the wind would blow it everywhere. You don’t need to be a nuclear scientist to figure that out.”

A lawyer representing the sailors said, “They went in to help with rescue efforts. They did not go in prepared to deal with radiation containment.”

The sailors and their lawyers are claiming that the Japanese power company hid the full extent of the meltdown and put them in danger.

As Fox reported:

The plaintiffs don’t blame the U.S. Navy, which they believe acted in good faith, Bonner said. It was the plant’s operators who sat on the meltdown information during the crucial hours following the March 11, 2011 disaster, he said.

“TEPCO pursued a policy which caused rescuers, including the plaintiffs, to rush into an unsafe area which was too close to the [Fukushima nuclear power plant] that had been damaged,” Bonner charged in an April filing now being updated to add more plaintiffs. “Relying upon the misrepresentation regarding health and safety made by TEPCO, upon information and belief, the U.S. Navy was lulled into a false sense of security.

“The officers and crew of the U.S.S. Reagan (CVN-76) and other vessels believed that it was safe to operate within the waters adjacent to the FNPP, without doing the kinds of research and testing that would have verified the problems known to the defendant TEPCO at the time.”

I think these sailors have a good case. Do you agree? .

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  • siyousyanamae .

    Radioactive cesium detected in deeper groundwater
    Dec. 20, 2013 NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)

    Tokyo Electric says radioactive substances have been detected in water samples taken from deep underground at the crippled Fukushima plant.

    For the first time in December, Tokyo Electric investigators detected radioactivity in groundwater taken from a layer 25 meters beneath the No. 4 reactor’s well facing the ocean.

    They are concerned that if contamination of deeper layers of groundwater is confirmed, it could be another source that is leaking into the ocean.

    Meanwhile, at the No. 2 reactor, the density of beta ray-emitting radioactivity in groundwater has been rising since November. On Thursday, it registered a record 1.9 million becquerels per liter.

  • Commander_Chico

    The Reagan, being nuclear powered, has plenty of radiological monitoring equipment.

    Rodney: would radioactive fresh water be picked up by the various dosimeters and other equipment?

    • I’d think they’d be constantly checking the ship while in proximity to any radioactive zone.

      And it would depend on how the ship makes its fresh water – if they’re using vacuum evaporation/distillation, all that would come through would be water vapor, not impurities – same if they use osmosis, the barrier membrane stops everything but the water molecule.

      And water doesn’t become radioactive by proximity to a radiation source. So… I’m kinda dubious about this.

      BTW, for those interested what’s what re radiation, monitoring and the like…

      The OMG 1.9 million becquerels of radiation… well, it’s hard to be sure just what sort of hazard that is. Without knowing what the radioactive material is, or the measurement time… it’s ambiguous, and whenever they get ambiguous about radiation levels, I start to get a bit skeptical. What’s the exposure in Sieverts, or Rads? Becquerels is about the smallest unit as you can get.

      (In fact, you’re getting about 5400 Becquerels right now, just from the potassium in your body. )

      Finally, the classic XKCD Chart on the subject…

      It really is true the more you know, the less scary things are.

    • After looking at this a bit more – there’s apparently some claims it was tritium in the water that did it. Again, I’m even more dubious about this – had a friend who was EOD in Viet Nam, and one night he told how his crew would occasionally take tritium radiation samples from their test kits and ingest them. The treatment was to get them to piss it out – apparently tritium doesn’t stay in the body well at all, especially if beer is used to flush it…

      From Wiki on Tritium…

      “Since tritium is a low energy beta emitter, it is not dangerous externally (its beta particles are unable to penetrate the skin), but it is a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin.[16][17][18][19] HTO has a short biological half-life in the human body of 7 to 14 days, which both reduces the total effects of single-incident ingestion and precludes long-term bioaccumulation of HTO from the environment.[18][20] Biological half life of tritiated water in human body, which is a measure of body water turn over, varies with season. Studies on biological half life of occupational radiation workers for free water tritium in the coastal region of Karnataka, India show that the biological half life in winter season is twice that of the summer season.[21]”

      So… the treatment for tritium exposure is beer. Lots and lots and lots of beer…

      • cirby

        The problem with the tritium theory is that there just isn’t that much of it. They measured as high as 64,000 becquerels per liter on site, next to storage tanks that leaked. Yeah, about twelve times your self-dose from potassium.

        That’s not very high, especially when you consider the amount of dilution that would happen in the water being carried offshore into the ocean.

        • Unless you’re working on homeopathic principles, where the lower the dose of something the more powerful it is. (Which always seemed a bit on the … unlikely side to me.)

          The obvious homeopathic corollary is that it was an absence of tritium in the water that caused the cancers.

      • How on earth could you convince sailors to follow that regimen…

        • You couldn’t. Sailors are notorious for their sheer rejection of alcohol.


      • Commander_Chico

        Probably trivial compared to a lot of sailors’ exposure to organic solvents.

        • Not like there’s any of THOSE on board a carrier…

          It’d also be interesting to see if these cancers are grouped in any particular divisions on board, or if they’re scattered through the general population.

          • Commander_Chico

            More in engineering and deck divisions, I think. Fuels, solvents and paints, liquid and aerosol.

            Another factor might be exposure to RF radiation of all kinds.

            Makes me want a full body MRI scan thinking about it.

    • Not directly unless specifically being checked for.

      Any radiation impacting the crew would be apparent in the regular dosimeter readings.

  • cirby

    It’s only been two and a half years.

    Cancer from very low dose radiation exposure doesn’t happen that fast except in bad TV-movies. Leukemia can happen within two years, but that’s only for higher-dose patients – and the carrier’s onboard detectors would have been going nuts with that level.

    Solid tumors, like the brain tumors or the rest? No way in hell.

  • hal

    Did these Sailors drank water that was processed by shipboard water plants, or water that came from shore, and of unknown quality ? Shipboard water plants basically take in seawater and pump out clean fresh drinking water. These
    plants are heavily instrumented to insure consistently pure drinking water free of contaminants. Since they were working in the area of a nuclear accident, one would expect the US Navy to have a protocol for working in that environment, which would ( or should) include environmental awareness for radiation exposure, air and water monitoring, appropriate personal protective equipment, and the use of Sailors that were trained and qualified to work in an
    nuclear accident hazard area. I don’t profess to be even a novice in this area, but common sense tells me that the US Navy, or any other branch of the US Armed Forces would certainly not take the word of a Jap power company executive
    that “Its OK, Its OK, you likee the water, you likee the water, drink up GI, drink up GI…..tasteee goooood GI, drinkee up sailor man.