U.S. sailors sue Japanese power company for radiation exposure

Eight U.S. Navy sailors have sued one of the Japanese energy companies whose nuclear reactor melted down after the 2011 earthquake in Japan, according to a Bloomberg report.

The sailors, who were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan when the aircraft carrier took part in the humanitarian missions, claimed that Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials exposed them to radiation near the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant by not disclosing the full extent of the damage to the plant.

The plaintiff’s lawyer wrote in the complaint the sailors “must now endure a lifetime of radiation poisoning and suffering.” The eight sailors are each suing for $10 million in damages, $30 million in punitive damages, and a $100 million fund to pay for future medical charges.

In the complaint, the sailors claimed that the power utility officials gave a false sense of safety in areas that were still exposed to radiation. The sailors then operated in these areas, exposing them to radiation, and creating possible medical problems in their future.

Power utility officials told Bloomberg they have received the suit and will research it before providing a response.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • Elron

    It depends more on how long they have been exposed to radiation.

  • Belesari

    Interesting tidbit.

    If you have flown often or you are a pilot your are getting far more than the recomended dose of radiation every year.

    And did you know your average coal plant gives off far more radiation than a Nuclear reactor?

    Or that the supposed tainted milk after 5mi island had as much radiation as!!! A BANANA!

    Or that granite releases it as well as other minerals in the earths soil!

    This has been fun tidbits of info most people are never told.

    • Tiger
    • dee

      I like reliable sources and references, no not wikipedia. You’ve provided none to support your statements. I recall some of these (granite, coal plant, and flying related exposure) are sources of exposure but I think you’re misrepresenting the information. Eating a banana doesn’t equate to exposure to radiation from a compromised nuclear reactor core.

      People that were near these plants were exposed to levels of radiation far above the norm. Were these sailors exposed to levels they claim? Who knows I hope for them someone turned on a Geiger Counter and recorded data with date/time stamps or samples were collected and analyzed in a laboratory.

  • Charley A

    Lawyers.

  • Chris

    Why doesn’t a nuclear carrier or any of its squadrons have sensors to detect radiation?

    • tiger

      They do. These sailors likely were on the ground at the Plant.

    • ChrisM

      It’s anecdotal and a story of friend of friend and such. But, in the aftermath, USS RONALD REAGAN was making relief helo runs to the area. One story said that when one of the helos landed on deck it set of the ship’s radiation detector.

      If I remember my ESWS correctly, the ship’s permanent CBR detector is the Improved Point Detection System (IPDS). There are also pocket dosimeters and portable detector/analyzers like the PDR-75.

      From wikipedia (original video/article PBS, who said it was potential radiation contamination): The ship, stationed off Sendai, was used as a floating refueling station for Japanese military and coast guard helicopters flying relief missions in the area.[28] US Navy helicopters also flew relief missions from the carrier. On 14 March 2011, the ship was forced to relocate to avoid a radioactive plume from the Fukushima I nuclear accidents which had contaminated 17 crewmembers of three helicopter crews.[29][dead link] On 23 March, the Reagan’s crew conducted a radiation decontamination operation to remove any further radiation hazards from the ship, which included scrubbing down any surface that could have been contaminated, including the flight deck and aircraft.[30] ” Link is the citation 30. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-ne

      “The aircraft carrier was 100 miles from the Fukushima nuclear power plant when it encountered the low-level radiation plume emitted by the plant. The radiation levels were determined to be low enough to continue humanitarian operations aboard the ship”

    • blight_

      Radiation sensors are specialized gear that tended to be carried about the surveillance aircraft used to monitor nuclear testing. Though it is possible that they do carry radiation sensors, but really; you need sensors *upwind* of the carrier, not on the carrier themselves.

      In the event of an atomic bomb detonation, the crew would likely have been issued iodine pills to outcompete radioactive iodine from being taken up and incorporated into the thyroid, which causes thyroid cancer.

      As for the other heavy metals, as long as you have a respirator outside to avoid breathing the stuff in and are covered, you shouldn’t suffer any ill effects.

  • David

    Leave it too the Americans to start suing everyone.

    • tiger

      It’s the American way. Till I needed one, I was not a fan of the bloodsuckers ether.

      • ltfunk4

        And hence the reason why American is such a mess – “I was bitterly against it until I thought I could scam the system myself”

    • volf

      Leave it “too” Americans to provide humanitarian assistance to a government that won’t even tell it’s own people what is happening.

    • crackedlenses

      You know, we could have just told the Japanese “good luck” and stayed home. I can’t say I would be happy to discover I had received a nasty dose of radiation across the pond….

  • Roy Smith
  • Roy Smith

    I remember working outdoors in the motor pool in Germany during the 80’s(compliments of 3rd Infantry Division,”Rock of the Marne”) when the Chernobyl radioactive cloud was passing overhead & the German government was telling their citizens to keep their children indoors. Who do I sue?

    • Kreev

      Russia

  • Roy Smith
  • ltfunk4

    This is a clearly frivilous case. They were doing thier jobs and flew deliberately into a radiation cloud without protection that was available. Clearly it would be thrown out of court if they tried to sue the US government so they went after the next Japanese.

    Not only is a cynical cash grab they are undermining our security relationship with Japan. A big part of our message in Asia has been we are there for humanitarian assistance. It is repeated in every press conference. The navy needs to get these people under control before they damage our reputation further.

    • mpower6428

      im sure the joint chiefs have a public relations secretary, they pay him. you can take the day off.

  • ltfunk4

    The Japanese of course should be suing general electric for a piss poor reactor design.

    • ben

      It wasn’t the reactor design that failed, the japanese piped the gasses that were supposed to be vented from the safety valves back inside the containment buildings to try and exploit a legal loophole regarding reporting of industrial accidents.

      When the hydrogen gas exploded and blew the roof off they had no-one to blame but themselves

  • mpower6428

    the japanese had been warned about this reactor for decades. the guys who designed it said it was dangerous along with just about everybody else including the UN.

    but that aint the issue. the issue is that tokyo electric power company continued to down play the extent of the meltdown even after they new how bad it was.

  • xQx

    Its like a Firefighter suing a home owner cause he got burned…..You knew the risks when you put the uniform on.

    • mpower6428

      except that if the firefighter asked the homeowner on multiple occasions if there was anything in the house that would blow up and fry said firefighter and the homeowner continuously denied it… then the firefighter would have a case.

      thats what you meant to say, riiiiight…?

  • Veng

    Americans, suing the Japanese, for exposure to radiation?

    Is it opposite day already? ;)

    • Tanker19e

      Touche

    • zak

      Those who start the war do not get to whine about how their enemies ended it.

      • blight_

        The US could’ve firebombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki like they did Kobe.

        It would still have sucked.

        • crackedlenses

          The point was to scare the Japanese into surrendering. Apparently the firebombings had not done the trick, hence turning to a new and even more frightening weapon.

          • blight_

            I suppose so, but we’ll never know without more firebombs. It required two atomic bombs, so it may have been the use of a new weapon, the use of more than one of this new weapon, or the Emperor threw in the towel.

          • crackedlenses

            Probably a combination of all three. The Americans wanted the war over with as quickly as possible at the time.

          • SJE

            They also wanted to send a signal to the Soviets.

            Using Nukes allowed the Japanese to surrender with a bit more pride, as this was a completely new and almost magic force. Firebombing, while just as bad, was still a “known” method of warfare.

          • crackedlenses

            Considering the suicidal “honor” code integral to the Japanese culture, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

          • blight_

            As in, easier to save face against a nuclear weapon than a fleet of bombers?

          • crackedlenses

            Pretty much.

  • Suchie4life

    Thousands of U.S.Military personnel where exposed to radiation from the plants reactors. Some at different levels. Some of these units where operating right in the middle of the radiation where other units where sent far away to prevent/limit radiation exposure. The Regan and a few other ships with there Helicopter units where hit by radiation. Alot of you are making dum comments about something you where not involved in. Some of the reactors in fact melted down and release dangerous levels of radiation. Why do you think all the military personnel operating in and around the area are now in monitoring programs. This law suit is only the start. Many more will follow but the real question is, who really is to blame? I bet you its not the Japanese.

  • blight_

    Sovereign immunity.

    But it also depends on the Status of Forces Agreement. It covers Americans who commit crimes in Japan and it presumably indemnifies Japan if the environment or something in it, makes them sick.

    During the Cold War, the Army marched troops into mushroom clouds to see if radiation would affect the ability of soldiers to fight.

    • SJE

      Sovereign immunity does not apply to a private company: TEPCO.
      On one hand, I think this lawsuit sounds very weak. There is SOFA, as you note, and they are military personel covered by all sorts of laws.

      OTOH, there have been many coverups regarding the Fukushima plant, so it is possible that they were exposed to far more than publically estimated. I’d like to see that evidence.

    • tmb2

      There have been a couple Supreme Court cases that stated the DoD can pretty much do whatever it wants to its service members on the job. The radiation exposure from nuke tests, making us take untested medications, and even the tests where soldiers were given LSD without their knowledge – all covered by a protection law. The sailors in this case will likely have theirs thrown out if the US government ordered them into that facility regardless of the conditions or what the Japanese government may or may have not disclosed. If they went into the nuke plant voluntarily (and it wasn’t their mission), then they might have a case, but it would prevent them from receiving disability benefits from the Navy. If the Japanese lied to the US government about the dangers, then that’s an issue between the two nations – not the individual sailors.

    • Doubtom

      It’s what you’re suppose to do with “cannon fodder”; we’re expendable!
      You wouldn’t want the Army to march Wall Street bankers through those mushroom clouds would you?

      • Riceball

        No, but Occupy people would be a different story altogether.

  • AZ1

    Silly sailors!

  • RAR

    I would think the sailors would have been wearing personal dosimeters, that would quantify their exposure.

    • bubblehead607

      Exactly.

  • GIO

    If some people is sending to work to a nuclear endangered zone . They colud be carry some dispositive for size the level of radiation. If you know that in emergency case some gobernment hidde information about …..the boss maybe think about this posibility and carry some dispositive for to know if the zone is good for working . The tecchnology is for use it not for show only . You need a new protocol or improve one ( use control of radiation include if the gobernment said that is sure ) for this situations .

  • Gary D. Holmes

    WOW, u can sue now. Does that mean we can sue the US Government for PTSD, Agent ORANGE(blue,red,green whatever). This suit is bogus. Keel haul the lawyer!!!!!

  • Bill Hinze

    Being a Viiet Nam veteran with the Army and exposed to Agent Orange, I am now coming down with many strange illnesses including cancers! Were these sailors advised of potential issues by either thier commanding officers or the Japanese of this potential problem? I sounds like the Japanese Power Company personell were aware of the radiation issues and hid them from the Japanese Government and the Navy! Hell yes I would attempt to sue them, and I would make sure that I would have a copy of my medical records when I left active duty, then immediately applied with the VA for my medical benefits and get checked out for radiation poisoning issues every six months! You guys are assholes for ridiculing and giving these guys bullshit!