(ECOWATCH) – After U.S. Navy sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan responded to the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan for four days, many returned to the U.S. with thyroid cancer, Leukemia, brain tumors and more.
At least 71 sailors—many in their 20s—reported radiation sickness and will file a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima Daiichi energy plant. The men and women accuse TEPCO of downplaying the danger of nuclear radiation on the site. The water contaminated the ship’s supply, which led to crew members drinking, washing their bodies and brushing their teeth with contaminated water. Paul Garner, an attorney representing 51 sailors, said at least half of the 70-plus sailors have some form of cancer.
“We’re seeing leukemia, testicular cancer and unremitting gynecological bleeding requiring transfusions and other intervention,” Garner told New York Post.
Senior Chief Michael Sebourn, a radiation-decontamination officer assigned to test the aircraft carrier, said that radiation levels measured 300 times higher than what was considered safe at one point. Meanwhile sailors like Lindsay Cooper have contrasted their initial and subsequent feelings upon seeing and tasting metallic “radioactive snow” caused by freezing Pacific air that mixed with radioactive debris.
“We joked about it: ‘Hey, it’s radioactive snow!” Cooper said. “My thyroid is so out of whack that I can lose 60 to 70 pounds in one month and then gain it back the next. My menstrual cycle lasts for six months at a time, and I cannot get pregnant. “It’s ruined me.”
Cooper said the Reagan has a multimillion-dollar radiation-detection system, but the crew couldn’t get it activated quickly enough.
“And then we couldn’t go anywhere,” she said. “Japan didn’t want us in port, Korea didn’t want us, Guam turned us away. We floated in the water for two and a half months.”
San Diego Judge Janis L. Sammartino dismissed the initial suit in late November, but Garner and a group of attorneys plan to refile on Jan. 6, according to Fox 5 San Diego. Though publications like The Washington Times have wondered if the Navy and/or National Security Agency might have known about the conditions the sailors were heading into two years ago, Garner and the attorneys say the lawsuit is solely directed at TEPCO.
“We’re suing this foreign corporation because they are doing business in America,” co-counsel Charles Bonner. “Their second largest office outside of Tokyo is in Washington, D.C. “This foreign corporation caused harm to American rescuers, and they did it in ways that give rise to jurisdiction here in this country.”