Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the power plant which had the world’s biggest nuclear disaster since 1986, was sued by eight U.S. sailors claiming they were exposed to radiation and the utility lied about the dangers.
The sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan nuclear-powered aircraft carrier were involved in disaster relief operations following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan that caused the meltdown, according to the complaint filed in U.S. federal court in San Diego on Dec. 21.
Tepco, as the Japanese utility is known, and the Japanese government conspired to create the false impression radiation leaking from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant didn’t pose a threat to the sailors, according to the complaint. As a result the plaintiffs rushed into areas that were unsafe and too close to the power plant, exposing them to radiation, the sailors’ lawyers said.
The Japanese government was “lying through their teeth about the reactor meltdown” as it reassured the crew of USS Reagan that “everything is under control,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in the complaint. “The plaintiffs must now endure a lifetime of radiation poisoning and suffering.”
The sailors each sought $10 million in damages, $30 million in punitive damages and a judgment requiring the creation of a $100 million fund to pay for their medical monitoring and treatments.
“We can’t comment as we have not received the complaint document yet,” Yusuke Kunikage, a Tepco spokesman, said by phone today. “We will consider a response after examining the claim.”
In July, the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund took control of Tepco in return for a 1 trillion yen ($11.7 billion) capital injection after the disaster left the utility on the brink of bankruptcy. The utility received 1.4 trillion yen in state funds to compensate those affected by the disaster.
The USS Reagan, a Nimitz-class carrier, has a crew of about 5,000, according to U.S. Navy’s website.
The case is Lindsay R. Cooper against Tokyo Electric Power Co. 12-cv-3032. U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).