SAN DIEGO —
Eight crew members of the USS Ronald Reagan are suing the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) for lying to them about the radiation levels to which they were exposed during rescue operations near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant last year.
In a suit filed in San Diego this week, lead plaintiff Lindsay R Cooper accused TEPCO of intentionally concealing the dangerous levels of radiation in the environment from U.S. Navy rescue crews working as part of “Operation Tomodachi” off the coast of the Tohoku region following the devastating series of earthquakes and tsunami that resulted in the nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.
According to Courthouse News Service, the plaintiffs assert that the government and TEPCO possessed data about the radiation leakage that they suppressed, thus willfully exposing Navy rescue workers of the U.S.S Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier based in San Diego, to dangerous levels of radiation. The suit claims that TEPCO covered up data
suggesting that rescue workers would be exposed to the same amount of radiation that resulted in cancer at Chernobyl.
The sailors are each seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages for fraud, negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, public and private nuisance and defective design, Courthouse News Service reported. The suit also calls for TEPCO to establish a fund of $100 million to pay for the medical expenses of crew who they say face “additional and irreparable harm to their life expectancy, which has been shortened and cannot be restored to its prior condition.”
The plaintiffs said that TEPCO, as a “wholly owned public benefit subsidiary of the government of Japan,” misrepresented radiation levels to give U.S. Navy workers “a false sense of security.” TEPCO’s policy of deception caused U.S. rescue workers to rush into an unsafe area which was too close to the stricken plant.
Although there were 5,500 sailors aboard the Reagan, the lawsuit is not a class action. Of the eight plaintiffs suing the government, six reportedly worked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, while the other two worked in air contamination. One of the plaintiffs is also reportedly suing on behalf of her infant daughter.