During the Fukushima quake and tsunami, we were constantly reassured that although there was a radiation leak from the reactor, the actual level of radiation was minimal and there was no cause for concern. Being exposed was equivalent to taking a long aircraft flight.
We just had dinner with a young man - a friend of Lulu's niece - who was serving on the USS Essex and now has about seven years of life left.
A few months after the incident, other newer stories vied for our collective attention and the concerns of Fukushima fell by the wayside. Looking back at the reporting, we find that the radiation stories are now starting to come out and there is, in fact, a class-action lawsuit against TEPCO for misinforming the US Navy and other first responders.
From 2011 - a week after the quake - from CNN:
Navy says radiation releases pose challenging environment
The ongoing radioactivity releases from damaged nuclear reactors in Japan after last week's historic earthquake are creating "one of the most challenging humanitarian operations ever conducted," according to Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet in Japan.
Davis said Tuesday that for the second time, U.S. helicopter crews have been exposed to elevated, albeit low, levels of radiation during flights near Japan's nuclear reactors. In addition, the Navy is moving three incoming ships to a new location because of "radiological and navigation hazards" at their intended destination on the eastern coast of Honshu, according to Davis.
Just as in an incident on Sunday, the crew members were stripped of contaminated clothing, scrubbed down with soap and water and tested. In all cases, they no longer tested positive for radiation exposure.
Nothing to worry about - move along folks...
From the December 2013 London Daily Mail:
51 U.S. sailors now claim they were poisoned by nuclear meltdown at Fukushima
The number of U.S. sailors who claim to have been poisoned by radiation while serving during the 2011 tsunami in Japan - resulting in cases of leukemia, thyroid and testicular cancers, chronic bronchitis and brain tumors - has jumped to 51, as the group continue to fight the company they say didn't report the contamination when it happened.
The U.S. Navy members who were allegedly infected - who served aboard the USS Ronald Reagan and its sister ship the USS Essex - started to develop strange symptoms and sicknesses in the months following their mission near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, such as lumps, night sweats and dramatic weight-loss.
Now the majority of the group who worked in the rescue effort have been diagnosed with an assortment of diseases, after their ships' desalination systems pulled in contaminated seawater that was used for drinking, cooking and bathing.
Their drinking water was radioactive - desalination will get rid of salts but only so much.
From the January 2014 Stars and Stripes:
Congress wants answers on health impacts of Japan disaster relief
Congress has instructed the Defense Department to launch an inquiry into potential health impacts on Navy first-responders from Japan’s March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The request, made in the explanatory statement from the House that accompanied the fiscal 2014 budget bill that passed Congress this month, comes as a growing number of sailors and Marines have joined a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co.
While the instruction is not law, Defense Department officials said that they were taking the request seriously.
About 50 sick sailors and Marines have accused TEPCO of lying about the risk of exposure, luring American forces closer to the affected areas and lulling others at bases across Japan into disregarding safety measures. These individuals claim to be suffering from exposure-related ailments such as unexplained cancers, excessive bleeding, thyroid issues and ailments including loss of muscle power, migraines and vision problems.
The suit was filed in federal court in San Diego in December 2012 seeking damages and funds to cover medical expenses. The original eight complainants were on the USS Ronald Reagan, but the suit has since expanded to include those who served aboard the USS Essex and USS Germantown as well as attached Marines.
TEPCO needs to be held to the fire and they need to pay for what they did. This will not save the life of the man I had dinner with tonight but it will serve to remind others of their responsibilities. I am reminded of that line in Candide (Battle of Minorca):
Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres.
In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.
Call me old school but someone needs to hang for this...