On Jan. 27, 2022, six young thyroid cancer patients filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, demanding that the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, compensate them for their illness.
The legal action and its background were reported by BBC News and the Mainichi newspaper:
(27 January 2022, BBC)
(27 January 2022, Mainichi)
Thyroid cancer is extremely rare in children normally (only one or two cases a year per 1 million children). After the Fukushima nuclear accident, however, around 300 cases have been diagnosed among 381,237 children under 18 (age at the time of the accident) in Fukushima Prefecture alone. There are also cases reported from neighboring prefectures that also suffered from the radioactive fallout of the Fukushima accident, but exhaustive health checks have only been conducted in Fukushima Prefecture. There is also an abnormal increase of thyroid cancer among adults in Fukushima.
TEPCO and the Japanese Government, which are jointly responsible for the accident, insist that the abnormally high occurrences of thyroid cancer have not been proven to be related to radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
The 6 plaintiffs from Fukushima, now aged 17 to 27 (i.e. 6 to 16 at the time of the 2011 disaster), claim their disease was caused by the radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident. This is the very first court case in which a specific disease will be focused on trial. (There are quite a number of lawsuits already filed by residents and/or refugees for compensation of the damage caused by the Fukushima accident, and many of the rulings so far have found either the utility company or both the company and the government liable for damage, but the defendants have appealed the decisions.)
Due to the illness, surgery and continuing treatments, the young cancer patients have had difficulties in gaining access to education and/or finding jobs. They have also feared discrimination. Without official recognition and support, they and their families were isolated and unorganized until quite recently.
You can listen to the voice messages (English subtitles) of the young plaintiffs on YouTube:
The legal team hopes the court confirms the likelihood of a causal relationship between the disease and the nuclear accident, recognizes the physical and mental hardships the young plaintiffs had been enduring, and finds the power company liable. You can listen to the head counsels’ briefing and Q&As at a FCCJ press conference of 2 March 2022: http://youtu.be/iGc00KafkuA
A crowdfunding started to assist the plaintiffs and the lawyers with legal and research costs. By overwhelming grassroots responses, the amount of donations reached the initial target of 10 million yen (US$87,000) in less than a week; they are now seeking twice the initial target, 20 million yen.
(by K. Hosokawa, 28 February 2022)