The US sailors who were involved in a humanitarian mission during the 2011 tsunami in Japan have sued Tokyo Electric Power for $1bn, accusing it of misleading them about the radiation levels at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
As many as 79 sailors are alleging that the company misinformed them about the levels of radiation to which they would be exposed during the operation.
A lawsuit has been filed by the sailors in a federal court in San Diego, US, in which it is claimed that the exposure to radiation has led to several cases of cancer and a child born with defects, reported the Associated Press citing Orange County Register newspaper.
The Fukushima disaster occurred in March 2011, when three of six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant went into meltdown due to a tsunami that hit the coast of Tokyo.
The sailors were part of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which transported food and water as part of the humanitarian mission undertaken by the US Navy after the disaster.
The sailors filed a similar suit in 2012 by naming the Japanese Government in it; the suit was, however, dismissed by a federal court saying that it was out of its jurisdiction.
The latest suit names only Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima plant.
Tepco has reacted to the lawsuit by saying: "It’s wholly implausible that military commanders in charge of thousands of personnel and armed with some of the world’s most sophisticated equipment, relied instead only on the press releases and public statements of a foreign electric utility company."
In a press release issued three days after the 2011 accident, the US Navy said that USS Ronald Reagan and other 7th Fleet were temporarily repositioned from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant after low level contamination was detected in the air and on its aircraft due to a radioactive plume released from the plant.
The release then said: "For perspective, the maximum potential radiation dose received by any ship’s force personnel aboard the ship when it passed through the area was less than the radiation exposure received from about one month of exposure to natural background radiation from sources such as rocks, soil, and the sun."
The US Navy is not a defendant in the law suit.
Image: USS Ronald Reagan was part of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission undertaken by the US Navy in Japan in March 2011. Photo: courtesy of Dylan McCord / Released.