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Attorneys Implore Judge to Keep Sailors’ Fukushima Case in U.S.

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November 14, 2018
SAN DIEGO (CN) – Former Senator John Edwards and his co-counsel implored a federal judge Wednesday not to dismiss claims from U.S. service members who say they were exposed to radiation while aboard U.S. ships sent to render aid after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan.
“We have 500 sailors who are badly hurt and some of them are dead. We have not been able to ask them a single question under oath … at the end of the day these folks just want their day in court,” Edwards told U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino.
But Sammartino said at the beginning of the nearly three-hour court hearing she was inclined to dimiss the claims against Tokyo Electric Power Co. – or TEPCO – and General Electric for lack of personal jurisdiction.
U.S. sailors filed a class action in the Southern District of California in 2012 claiming radiation they were exposed to following the meltdown of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan while aboard U.S. vessels on a humanitarian mission has caused cancer, brain tumors, birth defects in their children and other rare health problems. Some have even died, according to their attorneys.
If U.S. courts dismiss the two related cases – Cooper et al. v. TEPCO et al. and Bartel et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Company Inc. et al. – the sailors could bring their claims in Japan under its Compensation for Nuclear Damage Act.
Sammartino did clarify throughout the hearing that she would not waste her or the attorneys’ time by holding a court hearing if she wasn’t going to consider their arguments.
Class attorney Charles Bonner of Sausalito, California implored the judge not to dismiss the litigation, noting that attorneys have not been able to conduct discovery in the case, and that the defendants’ motions to dismiss were “based on legal arguments,” not facts.
Bonner suggested class counsel needed to obtain contracts between GE, which designed and helped to maintain the nuclear reactors for 40 years in Fukushima, and TEPCO, which operated the plant. Bonner said the contracts likely contain a choice-of-law provision that would indicate whether the parties would agree to litigate in the U.S. or Japan.
“Our sailors have already been here five years. They need some resolution in this court,” Bonner said.
TEPCO attorney Gregory Stone of Munger Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles said the case has seen new developments in the few years since Sammartino found it should not be dismissed – a decision affirmed by the Ninth Circuit.
Those new developments include three times as many cases filed in Japan over the nuclear meltdown, which Stone said “demonstrates the Japanese interest in resolving these claims.”
TEPCO has paid 8.163 trillion yen, or $76 billion – one percent of Japan’s total GDP – to resolve claims stemming from the disaster, “a huge amount of money for a government to designate to one incident,” Stone said.
General Electric attorney Michael Schissel of Arnold & Porter in New York told Sammartino Japan’s interest would be most impaired if its laws were not applied to the litigation and that a contract between GE and TEPCO over choice of law “would be completely irrelevant to the government’s interest in having its laws apply.”
If Japanese law is applied to the case, GE would be dismissed.
Edwards again reiterated the class’ desire to begin discovery, saying what they’ve pleaded so far “is what we have read in the newspaper and saw in the news.”
Edwards suggested if the Southern District of California dismissed the cases, the sailors wouldn’t “go to Japan and hire Japanese lawyers.”
Bonner buoyed Edwards’ point, noting a declaration from Japanese lawyers who said the class would not get a fair trial in Japan, where no jury would decide the case’s merits.
“If they want to be fair, let’s have a settlement conference before your honor – the Japanese lawyers representing TEPCO are here,” Bonner said, gesturing to the lawyers in the room.
Stone recognized the recent Veteran’s Day holiday by thanking the handful of service member-plaintiffs present before noting while the “injuries they suffered are unfortunate and regrettable … we don’t think they can prove it.”
Stone also pointed out that the Department of Defense, United Nations and World Health Organization had looked into the health claims on radiation exposure and found the radiation was too low to cause the claimed injuries.
Sammartino took the matter under submission and indicated that she will issue a written ruling.
https://www.courthousenews.com/attorneys-implore-judge-to-keep-sailors-fukushima-case-in-u-s/?fbclid=IwAR3Bhh7MyS0PYcQaa1fqNAGd4agqYnQ7hGF_musSukQCk-s12lx3f_m38vU

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November 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Americans seek $1 bil. in damages over Fukushima nuclear disaster

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A U.S. Marine assists Japanese Self-Defense Force members in removing debris from the grounds of Minato Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in this file photo taken on April 1, 2011.
 
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Some 200 U.S. residents filed a suit against Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and a U.S. firm seeking at least $1 billion to cover medical expenses related to radiation exposure suffered during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the utility said Monday.
 
The lawsuit was filed last Wednesday with U.S. federal courts in the Southern District of California and the District of Columbia by participants in the U.S. forces’ Operation Tomodachi relief effort carried out in the wake of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that crippled TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
 
Many of the plaintiffs are suing TEPCO and the U.S. company, whose name was withheld by TEPCO, for the second time after a similar suit was rejected by the federal court in California in January.
 
They are seeking the establishment of a compensation fund of at least $1 billion to cover medical and other costs, the utility said.
 
The plaintiffs claim that the nuclear accident occurred due to improper design and management of the plant by TEPCO. They are also seeking compensation for physical and psychological damage suffered as a result of the disaster, said the utility.
In Operation Tomodachi, which began two days after the natural disasters, the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and other U.S. military resources and personnel were deployed to deliver supplies and undertake relief efforts at the same time as three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex suffered fuel meltdowns.
 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

The Irradiated Sailors of the USS Reagan

Injustice At Sea: the Irradiated Sailors of the USS Reagan
by Linda Pentz Gunter

American sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan were exposed to radiation from Fukushima. Many are sick. Some have died. Why can’t they get justice?

 

image.0jpg.jpgSailors scrub the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan following a countermeasure wash down to decontaminate the flight deck while the ship is operating off the coast of Japan on March 23, 2011. The Reagan, along with 15 other ships that took part in the relief effort, still have some radiation contamination more than seven years later, the Navy says.

 

“Coverage of the USS Ronald Reagan has been astoundingly limited,” wrote Der Spiegel in a February 2015 story. Since then, nothing much has changed.

The German magazine was referring to the saga of the American Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier whose crew pitched in to help victims of the March 11, 2011 Tsunami and earthquake in Japan, then found themselves under the radioactive plume from the stricken coastal nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Since then, crew members in eye-popping numbers have come down with unexplained illnesses — more than 70 and still counting. Some have died. And many are suing.

The USS Reagan was part of Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. armed forces mission involving 24,000 U.S. service members, and numerous ships and aircraft bringing aid to the victims of the tsunami and earthquake.

On January 5, 2018, a federal judge in San Diego, CA, dismissed the latest version of a class action lawsuit brought by USS Reagan sailors and US Marines. This was just the latest milestone in a long and winding path to justice strewn with roadblocks and delays.

The original class action lawsuit — Cooper et al v. Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc., was filed in San Diego, the home port of the USS Reagan, on December 21, 2012. A second class action suit — Bartel et al v. Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. et al — was subsequently filed on August  18, 2017 and was the case dismissed in January.

The plaintiffs are represented by California attorneys Charles Bonner and Paul Garner, and by Edwards Kirby, the North Carolina firm led by former U.S. Senator, John Edwards.

Cooper now has 236 named plaintiffs and Bartel 157. But, wrote attorney Cate Edwards of Edwards Kirby and daughter of John Edwards, in an email;

“We have about 34 additional plaintiffs who have contacted us since the filing of the Bartel complaint, and that number continues to grow on a weekly basis.” As a class action the suit also “encompasses additional, unnamed class members— up to 70,000 American servicemen and women who served in Operation Tomodachi and may have been exposed to the radiation from Fukushima,” Edwards wrote.

Sadly those numbers sometimes also decline. Nine of the plaintiffs have already died. It is unknown how many others who took part in Operation Tomodachi, but did not join the suit, may also have died.

The Bartel plaintiffs are requesting an award of $5 billion to compensate them for injuries, losses and future expenses associated with their exposure to radiation, as a result of what they allege is TEPCO & GE’s negligence.  The Cooper plaintiffs have asked for an award of $1 billion.

Bartel is an extension of Cooper, with different plaintiffs but virtually identical facts and claims. It had to be filed separately, explained Edwards, because at the time more sailors came forward, the Cooper suit was stuck in appeal.  Eventually, Edwards said, the lawyers hope to consolidate the two suits “for litigation on the merits.”

But almost seven years after the Fukushima disaster, those merits are yet to be heard, with the case mired in legal wrangling and delays brought by the defendants — TEPCO, along with General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba and Hitachi, the builders and suppliers of the Fukushima nuclear reactors.

One such delay occurred when TEPCO and the Japanese government tried to force the case to be heard in Japan. But on June 22, 2017, the attorneys won in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and ensured the case would be heard in the U.S.

The plaintiffs charge that TEPCO lied to the public and the U.S. Navy about the radiation levels at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant at the time the Japanese government was asking for help for victims of the earthquake and Tsunami. By doing so, TEPCO deliberately allowed those involved in Operation Tomodachi to sail into harm’s way and become exposed to the radiation spewing from the stricken reactors on the battered Japanese coast.

A floating pariah  

Whether or not U.S. military commanders knew of the radiation risks once the readings were in, is moot legally. The plaintiffs are barred from suing the U.S. Navy because of the Feres Doctrine, dating from the 1950s, and which prohibits any member of the military from recovering damages from the government for injuries sustained during active military service.

The USS Ronald Reagan arrived off the Japan coast before dawn on March 12, 2011 with a crew of 4,500. It had been on its way to South Korea but returned to join Operation Tomodachi.

But what actually happened to the Reagan after that is still clouded in confusion, or possibly cover-up. After it got doused in the radioactive plume, then drew in radioactively contaminated water through its desalination system — which the crew used for drinking, cooking and bathing — it turned into a pariah ship, just two and a half months into its aid mission.

Floating at sea, the USS Reagan was turned away by Japan, South Korea and Guam. For two and a half months it was the radioactive MS St. Louis, not welcome in any port until Thailand finally took the ship into harbor.

There is no disagreement that the radioactive plume from Fukushima — which largely blew out to sea rather onto land — passed over the Reagan. Radiation meters on board confirmed this. But the levels of exposure are disputed, as is how close the ship came to shore and the melting Fukushima reactors and how often it strayed into — or stayed within — the plume.

Some versions have the radiation readings on board at 30 times “normal,” other 300 times.  Official Navy reports say the ship stayed 100 nautical miles away from the Japan coast.

But some crew members dispute that, saying they were at times just two miles away from shore. In an interview with journalist Roger Witherspoon for his article in Truthout, Navy Quartermaster, Maurice Ennis described a “cat and mouse” game played by the ship to try to stay out of the plume.

“We stayed about 80 days, and we would stay as close as two miles offshore and then sail away,” he told Witherspoon. “We kept coming back because it was a matter of helping the people of Japan who needed help. But it would put us in a different dangerous area.”

How close the ship came to the Fukushima reactors specifically, as opposed to the Japanese shoreline, is also a matter of dispute. Until the plaintiffs’ lawyers can issue subpoenas, hopefully getting a look at the ship’s logs, it is an important question that remains unanswered.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Hair told Stars and Stripes that he was informed the Reagan came within “five to 10 miles off the coast from Fukushima.” Stars and Stripes also reported that “many sailors have disputed the Navy’s accounting, saying they were so close that they could see the plant.”

Ship’s personnel who flew missions to mainland Japan to aid the earthquake and Tsunami victims also risked exposure to the radiation from Fukushima. Their aircraft, like the ship’s decks, had to be decontaminated upon return. In fact, a total of 25 US ships involved in Operation Tomodachi were found to be contaminated with radiation.

In the June 22, 2017 opinion allowing the class action lawsuits to be heard in the U.S., Judge Jay S. Bybee observed of the anomaly about the ship’s location that:

TEPCO makes much of Plaintiffs’ allegations that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was initially positioned “two miles off the coast,” while the Navy had been warned to stay at least “50 miles outside of the radius. . . of the [FNPP].” Appellant’s Opening Brief 7. The SAC [Second Amended Complaint of plaintiffs] alleges, however, that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was situated so as to provide relief in the city of Sendai, which is located over fifty miles north of the FNPP. Thus, it is possible that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was at once two miles off the coast and fifty miles away from the FNPP. Although other portions of the SAC suggest that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was closer to the FNPP, where the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was situated is unclear from the record before us, and further factual development is necessary to resolve this issue.

No worse than flying or eating a banana

At first, any concerns about radiation exposure were dismissed by military brass. Sailors were told the exposures were no worse than flying or eating a banana, according to Naval officer Angel Torres, one of the plaintiffs.

What they didn’t disclose was the very significant difference between eating a banana — during which the body ingests but also excretes identical amounts of radioactive potassium-40 to maintain a healthy balance — and exposure to nuclear accident fallout. Fukushima was leaking cesium, tritium and strontium as well as radioactive iodine which attacks the thyroid. For example, cesium, can bind to muscle, or strontium to bone, irradiating the person from within. This is a very different effect than the brief visit cosmic radiation pays to the body when we fly in an airplane.

There was also, according to former Department of Energy official, Robert Alvarez, now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, a problem with the dose methodology.

Alvarez told Who.What.Why that “the only way to get an accurate internal and external dose on any individual is to take continual measurements throughout the time they are exposed. People must wear special monitoring equipment and undergo a regular regime of monitoring. This is especially important in trying to assess the health effects from a multiple meltdown situation with large explosions involving reactor cores, as occurred at Fukushima.”

Who.What.Why was created by long-time journalist, Russ Baker because, as he writes on the site, “the media gatekeepers, both ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative,’ will not allow the biggest, most disturbing revelations to see the light of day.”

That is precisely the fate that appears to have befallen the undeniably disturbing USS Reagan story.

It has been touched on hardly at all by the mainstream media in the US although Jake Tapper delivered a 7-minute piece about it in February 2014 on CNN. Local television news stations have carried reports when a sailor from their area joined the law suit but rarely covered the bigger picture. An article in the New York Times two days into the disaster, chose to downplay and dismiss radiation concerns.

Aside from the legal trade publication, Courthouse News, most of the consistent coverage in the US has come, unsurprisingly, from the independent media. These include Counterpunch, Thom Hartmann’s The Big Picture on RT (now off the air), Mother Jones and a second piece in Truthout in addition to the Witherspoon article, and the work of anti-nuclear activist reporters, Harvey Wasserman’s Free Press and Libbe HalLevy’s Nuclear Hotseat podcast.

Epidemic of illnesses among sailors too strange to be a coincidence

The delay in getting accurate information, then having to contend with disinformation and official downplaying of the severity of the exposures has cost many of the sailors dearly. Treatment by specialists has often had to come out of their own pockets. Many cannot afford it. Some have paid with their lives.

The sicknesses range from the leukemias and cancers most often associated with radiation exposures, to immune system diseases, headaches, difficulty concentrating, thyroid problems, bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness in sides of the body accompanied by the shrinking of muscle mass, memory loss, testicular cancer, problems with vision, high-pitch ringing in the ears and anxiety.

Attorney Edwards sees the epidemic of illnesses among the Reagan crew as just too pronounced to be unconnected to Fukushima-related radiation exposure.

“Why are all these young, healthy, fit people getting cancer? Experiencing thyroid issues? It’s too strange to be a coincidence,” she told Courthouse News.

“That just doesn’t happen absent some external cause,” Edwards added. “All of these people experienced the same thing and were exposed to radiation at Fukushima. A lot of this is just common sense.”

Common sense, of course, does not usually prevail in such cases. There are far more powerful forces at work. And, as always, the burden of proof falls upon the victims, not the most likely perpetrator.

The case is dismissed but the lawyers aren’t quitting

In her January 5, 2018 ruling in San Diego, federal judge Janis Sammartino sided with the defendant’s request for dismissal, stating that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that TEPCO’s actions were directed at California — a technicality. The judge also wrote that the plaintiffs “have provided no information to support an assertion that Tepco knew its actions would cause harm likely to be suffered in California.”

However, lawyers in the case plan to press on. “The Bartel case was dismissed without prejudice, which means that we are able to refile those claims,” Edward said in her email. “We plan to refile those claims in the coming weeks, and are still working on determining the best course for doing so.”

She told Courthouse News, that the team intends to “continue to fight for the justice these sailors deserve. We will also be moving forward with the Cooper case in due course, and look forward to reaching the merits in that case.”

Meanwhile, the sailors in the lawsuit still struggle to get either justice or media attention. Official sources who could shed more light on what actually happened, aren’t talking, including the ship’s captain, Thom Burke, who has never spoken out.

Lead plaintiff, Lindsay Cooper, has been told by Veterans Administration officials that her symptoms are likely due to “stress” and has denied her claim for disability based on radiation exposure, claiming there is not enough proof. Yet Cooper suffers from continuous menstrual cycles, and a yo-yoing thyroid that results in massive weight gain and then weight loss every few months. Her gallbladder was removed because it ceased to function.

When another plaintiff, Master Chief Petty Office Leticia Morales, had her thyroid taken out, she learned her doctor had already removed thyroid glands from six other sailors on the Reagan.

As lawyer Garner put it: “These kids were first responders. They went in happily doing a humanitarian mission, and they came out cooked.”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/07/injustice-at-sea-the-irradiated-sailors-of-the-uss-reagan/

 

Yet, the other ships that are part of a Carrier group. Never get mentioned.

16 US ships that aided in Operation Tomodachi still contaminated with radiation

March 13, 2016

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Sixteen U.S. ships that participated in relief efforts after Japan’s nuclear disaster five years ago remain contaminated with low levels of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, top Navy officials told Stars and Stripes.

In all, 25 ships took part in Operation Tomadachi, the name given for the U.S. humanitarian aid operations after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. The tsunami, whose waves reached runup heights of 130 feet, crippled the Fukushima plant, causing a nuclear meltdown.

In the years since the crisis, the ships have undergone cleanup efforts, the Navy said, and 13 Navy and three Military Sealift Command vessels still have some signs of contamination, mostly to ventilation systems, main engines and generators.

“The low levels of radioactivity that remain are in normally inaccessible areas that are controlled in accordance with stringent procedures,” the Navy said in an email to Stars and Stripes. “Work in these areas occurs mainly during major maintenance availabilities and requires workers to follow strict safety procedures.”

All normally accessible spaces and equipment aboard the ships have been surveyed and decontaminated, Vice Adm. William Hilarides, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, wrote to Stars and Stripes.

“The radioactive contamination found on the ships involved in Operation Tomodachi is at such low levels that it does not pose a health concern to the crews, their families, or maintenance personnel,” Hilarides said.

The largest U.S. ship to take part in the relief operation was the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which normally carries a crew of more than 5,000 sailors. In 2014, three years after the disaster, the Reagan’s ventilation system was contaminated with 0.01 millirems of radiation per hour, according to the Navy. Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines advise no more than 2 millirems of radiation in one hour in any unrestricted area, and 100 millirems total in a calendar year from external and internal sources in unrestricted and controlled areas, so full-time exposure on the Reagan would be below that.

Plume of radiation

In the days after the tsunami hit the Fukushima complex, the plant suffered multiple explosions and reactors began to melt down.

Officials from the NRC told Congress that extremely high levels of radiation were being emitted from the impaired plant. Japanese nuclear experts said winds forced a radioactive plume out to sea, and efforts to keep fuel rods cool using sea water caused tons of radiated water to be dumped into the ocean.

The Reagan was dispatched to take part in relief efforts, arriving the next day. Navy officials say the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier stayed at least 100 nautical miles away from the damaged plant, but many sailors have disputed the Navy’s accounting, saying they were so close that they could see the plant.

 

image1.jpgA U.S. Marine sprays the surface of an F/A-18C Hornet aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a countermeasure wash down on the flight deck in March 2011. The Reagan, along with 15 other ships that took part in the relief effort, still have some radiation contamination more than five years later, the Navy says. Sailors aboard the ships, however, are not in any danger.

 

 

The Navy has acknowledged that the Reagan passed through a plume of radiation. Navy images showed sailors with their faces covered, scrubbing the deck of the Reagan with soap and water as a precautionary measure afterward. The Reagan and sailors stayed off the coast of Japan for several weeks to aid their Japanese allies.

The multibillion-dollar ship, projected to last at least 50 years after its launch in 2001, then was taken offline for more than a year for “deep maintenance and modernization” at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., according to Navy officials.

“Procedures were in place to survey, control and remove any low-level residual contamination,” the Navy said. “Personnel working on potentially contaminated systems were monitored with sensitive dosimeters, and no abnormal radiation exposures were identified.”

Upgrades and cleaning also took place at the ship’s next stop in San Diego.

Sailors who performed the work said it entailed entering spaces deep within the ship, testing for high levels of radiation, and if it was found, sanding, priming and painting the areas. They say there were given little to no protective gear, a claim that the Navy denies.

Of the 1,360 individuals aboard the Reagan who were monitored by the Navy following the incident, more than 96 percent were found not to have detectable internal contamination, the Navy said. The highest measured dose was less than 10 percent of the average annual exposure to someone living in the United States.

Radiation effects unknown

Experts differ on the effects of radiation in general and, specifically, for those involved in Operation Tomodachi.

Eight Reagan sailors, claiming a host of medical conditions they say are related to radiation exposure, filed suit in 2012 against the nuclear plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. The suit asserts that TEPCO lied, coaxing the Navy closer to the plant even though it knew the situation was dire. General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi were later added as defendants for allegations of faulty parts for the reactors.

A spokesman for TEPCO declined to comment for this story because of the sailors’ lawsuit, which was slated to go forward pending appeals in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The illnesses listed in the lawsuit include genetic immune system diseases, headaches, difficulty concentrating, thyroid problems, bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness in sides of the body accompanied by the shrinking of muscle mass, memory loss, leukemia, testicular cancer, problems with vision, high-pitch ringing in the ears and anxiety.

The list of sailors who have joined the lawsuit, which is making its way through the courts, has grown to 370.

https://www.stripes.com/news/16-us-ships-that-aided-in-operation-tomodachi-still-contaminated-with-radiation-1.399094

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sailors Fight to Keep Fukushima Radiation Case in US

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SAN DIEGO (CN) – Former Senator John Edwards and his co-counsel on Thursday asked a federal judge not to transfer to Japan a class action by hundreds of U.S. sailors exposed to radiation in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
An initial group of sailors sued Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TepCo) and General Electric in 2012. A second class action from sailors sent to render aid after the earthquake and tsunami was filed in San Diego Federal Court last August.
The March 11, 2011 tsunami caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to shut down, but loss of circulation water coolant led to meltdowns and explosions whose radioactive releases may not be completely cleaned up for centuries.
More than 420 U.S. service members in the two cases seek compensation and medical monitoring, testing and health care costs for exposure to radiation. Some sailors have died from complications of radiation exposure since the cases were filed, and more than 20 are living with cancer, according to the lawsuits.
U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino on Thursday considered motions to dismiss from TepCo and GE. They claim that California courts have no jurisdiction over events in Japan. Sammartino also considered a choice-of-law motion from General Electric, which wants to apply Japanese law to the case or have it transferred to Japan.
TepCo operated the Fukushima nuclear plant; GE designed its nuclear reactors.
TepCo attorney Gregory Stone, with Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles, said all claims brought in the United States could be brought in Japan and that the statute of limitations has not run out in Japan’s court system.
GE attorney Michael Schissel, with Arnold & Porter in New York, said the case belongs in Japan, where the facts originated and the witnesses are. Schissel said the Japanese government declared the nuclear meltdown was not a natural disaster, so TepCo could be held liable for damages.
But Edwards, whose firm Edwards Kirby is based in North Carolina, said it’s important to look at the situation “from altitude,” to see things from the sailors’ perspective.
“These are American sailors, American employees serving their country, who were sent on American ships on international waters at the request of the Japanese government … their ally, which owns the majority of stock in defendant TepCo,” Edwards said.
“Being on an American ship in international waters puts you on American soil.”
Edwards said that since the vast majority of the sailor-plaintiffs were stationed in San Diego and GE designed the nuclear reactors at its San Jose headquarters, the case belongs in California.
“They want the case in Japan because they know it goes away; that’s clearly their strategy,” Edwards said.
He added: “This case screams federal jurisdiction; this case screams United States of America. The underlying concept of this whole thing is fundamental and basic notions of fairness being met.”
Edwards’ co-counsel Charles Bonner, with Bonner & Bonner in Sausalito, said if the case were transferred to Japan, where GE could be dismissed as a defendant, GE could “continue building their defective reactors with impunity.”
Bonner added that California has a vested interest in applying its own laws, including strict liability for defective products, and punitive damages to deter companies from selling defective products. He pointed out that one-sixth of the U.S. Navy is based in San Diego, with 69 Navy ships in San Diego Harbor.
“(Japan’s) compensation act has not been applied to their own citizens, only businesses. Why should we speculate their compensation act will help our sailors? It will not,” Bonner said.
Stone countered that Bonner was “simply wrong” in claiming that the Japanese nuclear damage compensation act had not benefited individual Japanese citizens. He said it is the conduct of defendants TepCo and GE – which occurred in Japan – and not the plaintiffs’ place of residence that should determine jurisdiction over the case.
Sammartino indicated she will want further briefing from the attorneys before ruling on the motion to dismiss.

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Dying Navy Sailors Push for Trial on Fukushima Meltdown

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SAN DIEGO (CN) – Representing cancer-ridden Navy service members who say they were exposed to radiation on a humanitarian mission in Fukushima, former Sen. John Edwards urged a federal judge Thursday to set a date for trial.

Over a decade after serving as John Kerry’s running mate in the 2004 presidential election, Edwards now represents hundreds of Navy sailors who were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan as part of a humanitarian mission trip to Fukushima, Japan — bringing food and supplies to the city in March 2011 after it was devastated by an earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

We have all these sailors whose case is now five years old, who have died or are in the process of dying right now,” said Edwards, whose firm Edwards Kirby is based in North Carolina.

Edwards noted that some of his other clients have seen their children born with birth defects. He said he made the trip from Raleigh to San Diego to “try to get this thing moving.”

Japan’s earthquake triggered a nuclear meltdown at the power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., and Edwards’ clients say the radiation exposure has caused them to develop cancer and other illnesses.

The suit is one of two pending against TEPCo and General Electric in the Southern District of California — the first filed in 2012 and an additional lawsuit naming more than 150 sailors filed last month.

Thursday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino came after the Ninth Circuit ruled in June that the lawsuit could proceed in federal court, rejecting an effort to have the case sent to Japan.

Edwards urged Sammartino to bypass the procedural hurdles, “so we know there’s a deadline over there.”

Instead of just staying still and going with the pleadings and the motions to dismiss, is there a way to get us a trial date and a structure,” Edwards asked.

I hate to see these sailors and say we filed motions, went to the Ninth Circuit, went to Washington, and I hate to say I don’t know when [we’ll get our day in court],” Edwards said.

He asked for a May 2019 trial date.

TEPCo attorney Gregory Stone said the Japanese utility accepts responsibility for the radiation released but maintains the amount Navy service members were exposed to was negligible.

He thanked the service members present at the hearing for their efforts, but said that radiation exposure is not necessarily the cause of 300 to 400 sailors out of 70,000 on the humanitarian trip getting sick.

It only indicates what epidemiologists tell us: people get sick at different times of their lives for different reasons,” Stone said.

We don’t think the exposure was at a level sufficient to cause the injuries,” Stone continued, amid muttered comments from the audience. “They don’t agree with us and are probably talking about it now.”

GE attorney Michael Schissel said the length of the case and trial will be significantly impacted if GE remains a defendant in the case. Unlike TEPCo, GE is not admitting liability over the failure of its Boiling Water Reactors. Schissel said this would then require a liability phase at trial, significantly lengthening the process.

Sammartino called the case a “moving target” as the attorneys threw out different ideas for how best to approach setting deadlines and moving forward. She said she would issue an order setting dates.

In an interview with Courthouse News following the hearing, Edwards said they are pleased the case will be tried in America. If the case were in Japan, Edwards said there was a concern that the possibility of traveling across the world would cause his clients to lose hope.

From the perspective of a lawyer, it’s a wonderful cause,” Edwards said. “Here are these completely innocent people whose lives have been taken away from some of them and they were there trying to help the Japanese people. It was such a just and righteous cause that they were there for and they’ve had their lives changed forever as a result of what happened.”

More sailors are coming forward every week, Edwards added, saying they expect the numbers to continue to go up as the word gets out about the lawsuits.

He said they want to make sure “the truth comes out” and that the “word gets out about the dangers and risks that exist not just in Japan, but in other parts of the world.”

https://www.courthousenews.com/dying-navy-sailors-push-trial-fukushima-meltdown/

 

September 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Sailors’ $1 billion lawsuit over radiation from Fukushima nuclear disaster sails through federal court

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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court rejected affirmed a district court’s rejection of a Japanese power company’s motion to dismiss a $1 billion lawsuit brought by American sailors, who were allegedly harmed by radiation exposure during a relief effort following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

On June 22, a three-judge appellate panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously rejected an attempt by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to secure the dismissal of the class-action lawsuit. The suit was launched by American sailors who allegedly sustained injuries related to radiation exposure from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant during a relief effort in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. 

The appellate panel affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California’s rejection of TEPCO’s motion to have the suit dismissed on the grounds that U.S. courts lacked jurisdiction to try the case.

TEPCO’s initial challenge to U.S. jurisdiction is rooted in its interpretation of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), a 1997 international liability agreement concerning nuclear accidents. TEPCO argued that Article XIII of the CSC, which states “jurisdiction over actions concerning nuclear damage from a nuclear incident shall lie only with the courts of the contracting party within which the nuclear incident occurs,” invalidates U.S. jurisdiction. The appellate panel affirmed the district court’s ruling that the CSC, though signed in 1997, was only valid after it went into effect in April 2015. The sailors launched the lawsuit in December 2012.

TEPCO also challenged U.S. jurisdiction by citing international comity, a legal tradition allowing courts to decline jurisdiction in a court case when a foreign country has a “strong interest” in trying the case on its own soil. The appellate panel rejected this argument, noting that even though Japan had a strong interest in a case involving an incident on Japanese soil, the U.S. had a strong interest in prosecuting the case in the U.S. because the alleged victims were members of the U.S. military, and the U.S. “had a strong interest in maintaining jurisdiction over this [case] in order to help promote the CSC.”

TEPCO’s final challenge to U.S. jurisdiction was that the case violated U.S. constitutional law because it conflicted with the political question doctrine, which restricts the federal judiciary to deciding legal questions and bars it from deciding political questions. 

The panel also rejected this argument, ruling that at this time the court was “unable to undertake the ‘discriminating inquiry’ necessary to determine if the case presented a political question because there were outstanding basic factual questions regarding the Navy’s operations” during the relief effort. However, the panel noted that TEPCO was free to raise the international comity and political question issues again if information was uncovered providing justifications for those arguments.

The sailors represented in the case were deployed off the coast of Fukushima aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier on March 12, 2011, during Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. relief response following an earthquake and tsunami that caused massive damage to the region. The carrier was moved two days later, allegedly after radiation was detected. 

The sailors allege they were harmed by radiation exposure because TEPCO leadership and Japanese government officials allegedly conspired to downplay the threat posed by the damaged nuclear reactor.

The sailors launched the lawsuit on Dec. 21, 2012, seeking $10 million in damages each, along with $30 in punitive damages, and a $100 million healthcare fund for future monitoring and medical treatment.

http://norcalrecord.com/stories/511141853-sailors-1-billion-lawsuit-over-radiation-from-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-sails-through-federal-court#.WVst0i2bROI.facebook

 

July 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Former Senator John Edwards Representing Thousands of United States Veterans Injured in Nuclear Disaster

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RALEIGH, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the U.S. sailors who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation assisting in humanitarian relief efforts to Japan following an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Based on the ruling, the sailors are able to continue their suit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) allowing the sailors to pursue their case in the District Court in San Diego. It is possible that the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima plant affected up to 75,000 U.S. citizens, even after TEPCO deemed the conditions safe.

After meeting with attorneys from both sides last December, the United States Government submitted an amicus curiae brief expressing its belief that nothing should prevent the sailors from litigating their case here in America. Today’s Court of Appeals ruling reinforces the government’s desire that the sailors’ fight for justice will take place in the United States and not Japan as TEPCO and the Government of Japan had previously requested.

These members of the United States Navy deserve their day in court, and they will get it,” said former Senator Edwards. “These American heroes served the United States and were innocent victims in a nuclear disaster that never should have happened. This case has broad U.S. interests, both because of our nation’s long-standing relationship with Japan, and because plaintiffs in this case are members of the U.S. military harmed while on a humanitarian mission.”

As recently as this week, three former executives from TEPCO were charged criminally in Japan with contributing to deaths and injuries stemming from the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In addition, the Japanese government investigated the nuclear disaster and found that TEPCO was grossly negligent.

In 2011, U.S. sailors aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan were poisoned by radiation during Operation Tomodachi (“friend”). The humanitarian mission was in response to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake which triggered a tsunami in Japan that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Relief efforts included delivering food, supplies and clothing to the people ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

The plaintiffs, led by Lindsay R. Cooper and other members of the U.S. Navy and their dependents, have suffered and continue to be diagnosed with extensive injuries including blindness, thyroid cancer, leukemia and brain tumors. The lawsuit is not only against TEPCO, but several other co-defendants, including General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi.

Former Senator Edwards, his daughter Cate Edwards and California-based attorneys Charles Bonner, Cabral Bonner and Paul Garner are continuing to expand their suit against TEPCO. If you are a U.S. Sailor affected by this, you can reach attorneys working on this litigation at 844.283.9434 or http://fukushima.edwardskirby.com/

About Edwards Kirby:

Edwards Kirby is a national law firm, led by former U.S. Senator and trial attorney John Edwards and David Kirby, with offices in Raleigh, N.C. and San Diego, CA. The firm offers leading representation for plaintiffs in matters of personal injury, public and product safety, consumer protection, health care and medical liability, or civil rights and discrimination. For more information on the firm or its attorneys, please visit www.edwardskirby.com.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170622006227/en/Senator-John-Edwards-Representing-Thousands-United-States

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

9th Circ. Allows Sailors’ $1B Fukushima Suit To Proceed

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Law360, New York (June 22, 2017, 3:25 PM EDT) — The Ninth Circuit on Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision to allow sailors to pursue their $1 billion lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. over radiation injuries they allegedly suffered during their response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

TEPCO had sought to dismiss the suit on the grounds that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction. A lower court declined to grant that motion, and on appeal, the Ninth Circuit sided with that judge, beginning with TEPCO’s theory that the suit is blocked by the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage — an effort to establish an international liability framework for nuclear accidents.

The unanimous panel said the Convention’s provision that limits jurisdiction over nuclear accidents to the country in which it occurs only applies to claims arising after the Convention’s entry into force, which was April 2015. The sailors’ lawsuit was filed in December 2012. The panel paid particular attention to the portion of the Convention that gives exclusive jurisdiction to “the courts of the contracting party within which the nuclear incident occurs.”

“The use of the present tense suggests that the provision applies to future nuclear incidents and does not include past incidents,” the panel said. “One would expect the drafters to have used the past tense had they intended to alter jurisdiction over claims arising out of nuclear incidents that occurred before the CSC’s entry into force.”

TEPCO had also argued federal courts lack jurisdiction over the case because of the international comity doctrine, which allows a court to dismiss a case when another country has a strong interest in handling the claims and can adequately do so.

The panel noted that the Fukushima incident did happen in Japan, giving that country “a strong interest” in the litigation. But it also acknowledged that the plaintiffs are U.S. service members, giving this country a strong interest in the case as well. The government of Japan and the U.S. filed briefs on the question, both asserting their own country was the proper legal venue. Ultimately the panel was swayed by the U.S.’ argument that “allowing the suit to continue in California is consistent with U.S. interests in promoting the CSC.”

“In hopes that other countries would do the same, the United States [prior to the Convention] may have preferred that U.S. courts not exercise jurisdiction over claims arising out of foreign nuclear incidents. But that policy appears to have changed,” the panel said. “Now that the United States has ratified the CSC, the State Department takes the position that it would prefer to keep exclusive jurisdiction as a bargaining chip to encourage other nations to join the CSC. We owe this view deference.”

The panel also rejected TEPCO’s argument that the case does not belong in the U.S. under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which allows a court to dismiss a case when it would be more conveniently handled in a foreign forum.

“In this case, plaintiffs are U.S. citizens, and their decision to sue in the United States must be respected. The district court properly took plaintiffs’ choice of their home forum into consideration and did not abuse its discretion in finding that other private and public considerations did not outweigh plaintiffs’ interest in suing at home,” the panel said.

Finally, the panel rejected TEPCO’s argument that the plaintiffs’ claims are nonjusticiable under the “political question” doctrine — which holds that the court cannot rule on fundamentally political questions.

But the panel left open the possibility that either the international comity doctrine or the political question doctrine could be used as a reason to dismiss the sailors’ lawsuit once the case progresses and more facts come to light.

U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino in October 2014 granted TEPCO’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ strict liability and design defect claims, but denied TEPCO’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Judges A. Wallace Tashima, Kim McLane Wardlaw and Jay S. Bybee sat on the panel.

The sailors are represented by Charles A. Bonner, Adam Cabral Bonner and Paul C. Garner of the Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner and John R. Edwards and Catharine E. Edwards of Edwards Kirby.

TEPCO is represented by Daniel P. Collins, Bryan H. Heckenlively and Gregory P. Stone of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

The government is represented by Benjamin C. Mizer, Laura E. Duffy, Douglas N. Letter, Sharon Swingle and Dana Kaersvang of the U.S. Department of Justice; Brian J. Egan of the U.S. Department of State; and Jennifer M. O’Connor of the U.S. Department of Defense.

GE is represented by Michael D. Schissel, John B. Bellinger III, Lisa S. Blatt, David J. Weiner, Elisabeth S. Theodore and Sally L. Pei of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

The case is Lindsay R. Cooper et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc., case number 15-56424, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

https://www.law360.com/california/articles/937440/9th-circ-allows-sailors-1b-fukushima-suit-to-proceed

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June 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Radiation Sick US Sailors Allowed to Sue Japan’s State-Owned Nuclear Plant Operator Tepco

quake-carrier-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqbFWWpigZGUS2rP-sASCChpsJBeO1fiTp7A-5pLIp0iQ.jpgThe aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan heads towards the earthquake and tsunami affected areas of Japan in 2011

 

US sailors who ‘fell sick from Fukushima radiation’ allowed to sue Japan, nuclear plant operator

A US appeals court has ruled that hundreds of American navy personnel can pursue a compensation suit against the government of Japan and Tokyo Electric Power Co. for illnesses allegedly caused by exposure to radioactivity in the aftermath of the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled on Thursday that the 318 sailors who have so far joined the $1 billion (£787 million) class action lawsuit do not need to file their case in Japan.

Most of the plaintiffs were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier that was dispatched to waters off north-east Japan after the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima plant. Three reactors suffered catastrophic meltdowns and released large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere after their cooling units were destroyed by a magnitude-9 earthquake and a series of tsunami.

The plaintiffs claim that they were healthy and physically fit before they were exposed to the radiation plume, with some personnel reporting the air on the flight deck tasting “metallic”.

The crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant

The California-based law firm representing the plaintiffs say they have been affected by a range of complaints, ranging from leukaemia to ulcers, brain cancer, brain tumours, testicular cancer, thyroid illnesses and stomach complaints.

The suit claims that TEPCO is financially responsible for the sailors’ medial treatment because it failed to accurately inform the Japanese government of the scale of the problem.

The Japanese government, the suit alleges, also failed to inform the US that radiation leaking from the plant posed a threat to the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan and other US assets dispatched to assist in “Operation Tomodachi”, meaning “friend” in Japanese.

The case was originally filed in San Diego in 2012, but has been delayed over the question of where it should be heard. The US government has also vehemently denied that any personnel were exposed to levels of radiation that would have had an impact on their health during the Fukushima recovery mission.

Interviewed for the San Diego City Beat newspaper in February, William Zeller said: “Right now, I know I have problems but I’m afraid of actually finding out how bad they really are.”

Formerly a martial arts instructor, he now uses a breathing machine when he goes to sleep due to respiratory problems he blames on his exposure aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in 2011.

“I literally just go to work and go home now”, he said. “I don’t have the energy or pain threshold to deal with anything else”.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/23/us-sailors-fell-sick-fukushima-radiation-allowed-sue-japan-nuclear/

“A federal appeals court has ruled that members of the US Navy can now, in a US court, pursue their lawsuit which alleges that they were exposed to radiation while providing aid after the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan.”

USS Reagan crew can sue Japanese company over Fukushima nuclear disaster – court

A federal appeals court has ruled that members of the US Navy can now, in a US court, pursue their lawsuit which alleges that they were exposed to radiation while providing aid after the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan.

On Thursday, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the sailors who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation while providing humanitarian aid after an earthquake destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

The ruling allows sailors, who were aboard the ship at the time, to pursue their lawsuit against the state-owned Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for misrepresented radiation levels in the surrounding air and water. The lawsuit alleges that TEPCO misled them about the extent of the radiation leak.

An investigation into the incident found that TEPCO did not take proper precautions to prevent the incident and described the meltdown as a “manmade” disaster. TEPCO later admitted the meltdown could have been avoided. 

The Japanese government set up the Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center to deal with all the claims against TEPCO. So far, a total of $58 billion has been paid out to victims of the disaster.

However, TEPCO asked the courts to dismiss the case from the US sailors under the “firefighter’s rule,” which states that first responders cannot sue those who caused the emergency.

Up to 75,000 US citizens could have been affected by the meltdown, according to former Democratic senator and presidential candidate John Edwards who is presenting the case in court.

“These members of the United States Navy deserve their day in court, and they will get it,”said Edwards. “These American heroes served the United States and were innocent victims in a nuclear disaster that never should have happened. This case has broad US interests, both because of our nation’s long-standing relationship with Japan, and because plaintiffs in this case are members of the US military harmed while on a humanitarian mission.”

The sailors continue to suffer from blindness, thyroid cancer, leukemia and brain tumors, Edwards said.

Attorneys are seeking $1 billion in damages from TEPCO and several other defendants, including General Electric,

https://www.rt.com/usa/393665-fukushima-reagan-lawsuit-us/

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Local servicemen may have radiation poisoning from Fukushima

 “In January, TEPCO urged the court to dismiss the case, citing that it is a political matter that could impact international relations.”

With a class action lawsuit pending, hundreds of Navy sailors say they can’t get the help they need

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Navy servicemember seeks treatment for alleged radiation poisoning following Operation Tomodachi.

“Right now, I know I have problems, but I’m afraid of actually finding out how bad they really are,” said William Zeller, a 33-year-old active-duty Navy servicemember living in San Diego. He’s one of the 4,500 sailors who were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan during Operation Tomodachi, a humanitarian aid mission sent to Japan the day after a tsunami triggered the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown. 

I know there’s something wrong,” Zeller said. “I’ve got many other people around me telling me I don’t look good, and I need to get checked out. While I am a workaholic, it’s a distraction.”

Zeller is only one of 318 sailors (and counting) who have joined a billion-dollar class action lawsuit filed in 2012 against the nuclear generators’ operating company, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, for injuries allegedly caused by radiation exposure.

The lawsuit argues TEPCO is financially responsible for the sailors’ medical care because the operating company, admittedly, did not inform the Japanese government of the meltdown. In turn, the Japanese government unknowingly misinformed the U.S. Navy of potential dangers of anchoring off the coast of Japan where the ship was engulfed in a plume of radiation for several hours.

Everywhere we went we had to carry [gas masks] on our hips,” Zeller said. “We were turning on news networks, and we could see how we were right in the plume. You could taste the metallic air.”

In the six years since Fukushima, Zeller has only sought medical attention from the Navy since the care is financially covered. 

The military health system is a process, putting it politely,” he said, explaining how it took four years to learn he had abnormal bone growth, nerve damage and what he believes is irritable bowel syndrome, all of which began a year after Operation Tomodachi. His weight fluctuates 20 to 30 pounds within a month, and he’s unendingly fatigued.

Before I went [on the USS Ronald Reagan], I used to be a martial arts instructor,” he said. “I used to go on regular bike rides. I hiked. I was in very good shape. Now, I wear a breathing machine when I go to sleep because I have respiratory problems. I literally just go to work and go home now. I don’t have the energy or the pain threshold to deal with anything else.”

Considering the Veterans Association’s inability to treat members in a timely or efficient manner, Zeller’s lawyer, Paul Garner, said VA care is not an option. Instead, they’re hopeful that a fund set up by former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will come to fruition. 

Koizumi announced the creation of the fund while visiting 10 affected sailors, including Zeller, in San Diego in May. Koizumi said he expects to raise $2 million by a March 31 cutoff date. The plan is to then transfer the money to the U.S. to supplement the sailor’s medical bills at, according to Garner, some of the best care centers across the country.

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USS Ronald Reagan

However, Garner knows $2 million won’t be enough to cover every need, especially since some sailors have reported symptoms appearing in their children who were born after Operation Tomodachi. 

I have no idea if it’s caused by the radiation that I was exposed to on the Reagan, but I don’t know that it’s not,” said Jason F., who was also on board the USS Ronald Reagan but didn’t want to share his last name while he’s still active duty. His breathing is audible over the phone, as if climbing several sets of stairs, but he’s tucking his three-year-old daughter into bed at their San Diego home.

That’s standard breathing for me,” he said. “I don’t know what to do about it. She has difficulty breathing too,” he said of his daughter, who was born in 2013. “She snores like a grown man.”

Jason is 36 years old, in shape, never smoked a day in his life and didn’t have trouble breathing until after his time on the USS Ronald Reagan. His respiratory difficulties have aggrandized since 2011, peaking during a 2016 deployment where the doctors told him the contrasting temperatures were to blame and gave him an inhaler to puff on. It took a formal request to fly him off the ship to receive medical treatment in Bahrain, where he was told he had a 60 percent chance of tuberculosis and a 40 percent chance of lung cancer. He has since been diagnosed with asthma by an outside specialist, although the treatments aren’t working. 

It’s difficult for them to figure out,” Jason said. “I mean, how many patients have they had that are exposed to radiation? And are they trained for that?”

When Zeller mentioned radiation exposure to doctors at the Navy, he said he was told it was interesting, if acknowledged at all. 

Lung cancer is one of several cancers associated with high radiation exposure, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website, as well as leukemia, which several sailors have been diagnosed with. Bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness and ulcers, are also symptoms reported by the sailors and are signs of radiation poisoning, according to the Scripps Health website.

In 2014, the Department of Defense published a report acknowledging that radiation exposure can cause such medical issues, but that the exposure levels were too low and the symptoms appeared too soon to make a connection. 

While Zeller and Jason hope for financial support either from Koizumi’s fund or by winning the lawsuit, they want support for the others affected. 

I’m experiencing symptoms, but it’s not just for me,” Zeller said. “It’s for the individuals who are way worse than me and to bring attention to them… They have tumors, cancers, birth defects in their children, some individuals have mass muscle fatigue where their entire half of their body isn’t functional anymore, and they are stuck in wheelchairs. I am currently on the better end.”

The sailors are waiting for a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determining whether the lawsuit will continue in the United States or in Japan, if at all.

In January, TEPCO urged the court to dismiss the case, citing that it is a political matter that could impact international relations.

Jason said the lawsuit is about more than money, specifically when it comes to his daughter’s future. 

I just want accountability,” he said. “I want her taken care of. Whatever that takes.”

http://sdcitybeat.com/news-and-opinion/news/local-navy-servicemen-may-have-radiation-poisoning-from-fuku/

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

Ex-Leader of Japan Turns Nuclear Foe

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TOKYO–William Zeller, a petty officer second class in the U.S. Navy, was one of hundreds of sailors who rushed to provide assistance to Japan after a giant earthquake and tsunami set off a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Not long after returning home, he began to feel sick.

Today, he has nerve damage and abnormal bone growths, and blames exposure to radiation during the humanitarian operation conducted by crew members of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan. Neither his doctors nor the U.S. government has endorsed his claim or those of about 400 other sailors who attribute ailments including leukemia and thyroid disease to Fukushima and are suing Tokyo Electric, the operator of the plant.

But one prominent figure is supporting the U.S. sailors: Junichiro Koizumi, former prime minister of Japan.

Koizumi, 74, visited a group of the sailors, including Zeller, in San Diego in May, breaking down in tears at a news conference. Over the past several months, he has barnstormed Japan to raise money to help defray some of their medical costs.

The unusual campaign is just the latest example of Koizumi’s transformation in retirement into Japan’s most outspoken opponent of nuclear power. Though he supported nuclear power when he served as prime minister from 2001-06, he is now dead set against it and calling for the permanent shutdown of all 54 of Japan’s nuclear reactors, which were taken offline after the Fukushima disaster.

I want to work hard toward my goal that there will be zero nuclear power generation,” Koizumi said in an interview in a Tokyo conference room.

The reversal means going up against his old colleagues in the governing Liberal Democratic Party as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who are pushing to get Japan, once dependent for about one third of its energy on nuclear plants, back into the nuclear power business.

That Koizumi would take a contrarian view is perhaps not surprising. He was once known as “the Destroyer” because he tangled with his own party to push through difficult policy proposals like privatization of the national postal service.

Koizumi first declared his about-face on nuclear power three years ago, calling for Japan to switch to renewable sources of energy like solar power and arguing that “there is nothing more costly than nuclear power.”

After spending the first few years of his retirement out of the public eye, in recent months Koizumi has become much more vocal about his shift, saying he was moved to do more by the emotional appeal of the sailors he met in San Diego.

Scientists are divided about whether radiation exposure contributed to the sailors’ illnesses. The Defense Department, in a report commissioned by Congress, concluded that it was “implausible” that the service members’ ailments were related to radiation exposure from Fukushima.

To many political observers, Koizumi’s cause in retirement is in keeping with his unorthodox approach in office, when he captivated Japanese and international audiences with his blunt talk, opposition to the entrenched bureaucracy and passion for Elvis Presley.

Some wonder how much traction he can get with his anti-nuclear campaign, given the Abe administration’s determination to restart the atomic plants and the Liberal Democratic Party’s commanding majority in parliament.

Two reactors are back online; to meet Abe’s goal of producing one-fifth of the country’s electricity from nuclear power within the next 15 years, about 30 of the existing 43 reactors would need to restart. (Eleven reactors have been permanently decommissioned.)

A year after the Fukushima disaster, anti-nuclear fervor led tens of thousands of demonstrators to take to the streets of Tokyo near the prime minister’s residence to register their anger at the government’s decision to restart the Ohi power station in western Japan. Public activism has dissipated since then, though polls consistently show that about 60 percent of Japanese voters oppose restarting the plants.

The average Japanese is not that interested in issues of energy,” said Daniel P. Aldrich, professor of political science at Northeastern University. “They are anti-nuclear, but they are not willing to vote the LDP out of office because of its pronuclear stance.”

Sustained political protest is rare in Japan, but some analysts say that does not mean the anti-nuclear movement is doomed to wither.

People have to carry on with their lives, so only so much direct action can take place,” said Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Anti-nuclear activism “may look dormant from appearances, but it’s there, like magma,” he said. “It’s still brewing, and the next trigger might be another big protest or political change.”

Some recent signs suggest the movement has gone local. In October, Ryuichi Yoneyama was elected governor in Niigata, the prefecture in central Japan that is home to the world’s largest nuclear plant, after campaigning on a promise to fight efforts by Tokyo Electric to restart reactors there.

Like Koizumi, he is an example of how the anti-nuclear movement has blurred political allegiances in Japan. Before running for governor, Yoneyama had run as a Liberal Democratic candidate for parliament.

Koizumi, a conservative and former leader of the Liberal Democrats, may have led the way.

Originally, the nuclear issue was a point of dispute between conservatives and liberals,” said Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer and leading anti-nuclear activist. “But after Mr. Koizumi showed up and said he opposed nuclear power, other conservatives realized they could be against nuclear power.”

Since he visited the sailors in San Diego, Koizumi has traveled around Japan in hopes of raising about $1 million for a foundation he established with another former prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, an independent who has previously been backed by the opposition Democratic Party, to help pay some of the sailors’ medical costs.

Koizumi is not involved in the sailors’ lawsuit, now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Tokyo Electric is working to have the case moved to Japan.

Aimee L. Tsujimoto, a Japanese-American freelance journalist, and her husband, Brian Victoria, an American Buddhist priest now living in Kyoto, introduced Koizumi to the plaintiffs. Zeller, who said he took painkillers and had tried acupuncture and lymph node massages to treat his conditions, said the meeting with Koizumi was the first time that someone in power had listened to him.

This is a man where I saw emotion in his face that I have not seen from my own doctors or staff that I work with, or from my own personal government,” said Zeller, who works at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. “Nobody has put the amount of attention that I saw in his eyes listening to each word, not just from me, but from the other sailors who have gone through such severe things healthwise.”

Koizumi, whose signature leonine hairstyle has gone white since his retirement, said that after meeting the sailors in San Diego, he had become convinced of a connection between their health problems and the radiation exposure.

These sailors are supposed to be very healthy,” he said. “It’s not a normal situation. It is unbelievable that just in four or five years that these healthy sailors would become so sick.”

I think that both the U.S. and Japanese government have something to hide,” he added.

Many engineers, who argue that Japan needs to reboot its nuclear power network to lower carbon emissions and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels, say Koizumi’s position is not based on science.

He is a very dramatic person,” said Takao Kashiwagi, a professor at the International Research Center for Advanced Energy Systems for Sustainability at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. “He does not have so much basic knowledge about nuclear power, only feelings.”

That emotion is evident when Koizumi speaks about the sailors. Wearing a pale blue gabardine jacket despite Japan’s black-and-gray suit culture, he choked up as he recounted how they had told him that they loved Japan despite what they had gone through since leaving.

They gave their utmost efforts to help the Japanese people,” he said, pausing to take a deep breath as tears filled his eyes. “I am no longer in government, but I couldn’t just let nothing be done.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/SDI201701026164.html

January 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Japan’s government should stay out of U.S. sailors’ lawsuit against Tepco

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Anti-nuclear village voice: Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi attends a press conference in Carlsbad, California, in May with former U.S. soldiers who have sued Tokyo Electric Power Co. for damage to their health they believe was caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The author of this column, Brian Victoria, who acted as translator for Koizumi during the trip, is seated on the left.

Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,

Let me first acknowledge that after four long years of silence, the Japanese government has finally taken a position regarding the lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the U.S. by more than 450 American sailors, marines and civilians who were on board the USS Reagan and accompanying military ships off the coast of Tohoku after 3/11.

These young people experienced serious health problems resulting from, they allege, radiation exposure while participating in Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. military’s humanitarian rescue mission launched in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and subsequent multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

While the Japanese government’s acknowledgement of the suit is welcome, the unconditional support it has given to Tepco is a matter of deep concern. Even now, U.S. service personnel find themselves prevented from seeking justice because Tepco, with the support of the Japanese government, is doing its utmost to ensure the case will never be heard in an American court.

The Japanese government submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 3. An amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief is one presented by a party not directly involved in the suit in the hope of influencing the outcome. The brief contains two points:

1. “The Government of Japan has developed a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.”

2. “Damage claims brought in tribunals outside of Japan threaten the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.”

Examining the first point, if the Japanese government truly had “a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims,” there would be no need for the U.S. service members’ lawsuit. Yet, as you know, the Japanese government and its subsidiaries have, to date, not paid a single yen to any non-Tepco-related victim of radiation exposure from Fukushima No. 1. This includes, as of March this year, a total of 173 children from the prefecture who underwent surgery after being diagnosed with suspected thyroid cancer, 131 of whom were confirmed to have had cancer.

If the Japanese government will not admit that the suffering of its own children was caused by radiation exposure, how confident can young Americans be that the apparently radiation-induced injuries they experienced will be recognized as such, let alone compensated for, in Japan?

Further, at least seven of these previously healthy young Americans have already died and many others are too ill to travel to Japan even if they could afford to, let alone reside in this country during lengthy legal procedures, which typically take years to resolve. This is not to mention the prospect of expensive legal costs, including for court fees, hiring Japanese lawyers, translation of relevant documents, etc. And let us never forget, Prime Minister, it was the Japanese government that requested the assistance of these American military personnel.

As for the second point above, I agree the U.S. military personnel’s lawsuit threatens “the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.” For example, if a U.S. court were to ascribe the plaintiffs’ illnesses to radiation exposure, how could the Japanese government continue to claim that none of the many illnesses the children and adults of Fukushima presently experience are radiation-related? The American service personnel truly serve as “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to demonstrating the damaging effects of radiation exposure. Moreover, this canary is out of the Japanese government’s ability to control.

Let us further suppose that an American court were to award $3 million per person as compensation for the deaths, currently standing at seven, of the military personnel who were irradiated. By contrast, the Japanese government continues to deny compensation, for radiation-induced illnesses let alone deaths, to its own citizens. This would surely impact the “viability” (not to mention reputation) of the Japanese government in its ongoing denial of radiation-related injuries to non-Tepco employees.

Let me close by noting that there is one Japanese political leader who has accepted personal responsibility for the injuries inflicted on American service personnel. I refer to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who, after meeting with injured servicemen and women in San Diego in May, initiated a fund to meet as many of the medical needs of these sailors and marines as possible.

Fortunately, thanks to the support of thousands of ordinary Japanese, he has already raised $700,000 toward his $1 million goal. With tears in his eyes, Koizumi explained that he could not ignore the suffering of hundreds of formerly healthy young Americans who willingly put themselves at risk in order to render aid to the Japanese people.

Prime Minister Abe, I call on you to end the Japanese government’s unconditional legal support of Tepco. Further, if the Japanese government has a conscience, please immediately provide medical aid and compensation to the hundreds of American victims of Operation Tomodachi.

BRIAN VICTORIA

Kyoto

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/02/voices/japans-government-stay-u-s-sailors-lawsuit-tepco/#.WBywcSTia-c

November 4, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japan Political Pulse: ‘Operation Tomodachi’ members need support amid radiation fears

US_Navy_110323-N-IC111-436_Sailors_scrub_the_flight_deck_aboard_the_aircraft_carrier_USS_Ronald_Reagan_(CVN_76)_following_a_countermeasure_wash_dow.jpg

 

Many readers have offered support for a lawsuit filed by former U.S. servicemen and others claiming they were affected by radiation during “Operation Tomodachi,” a U.S. Armed Forces operation to assist Japan in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. These readers reacted to last week’s installment of the Japan Political Pulse column that mentioned former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s activities to support the lawsuit.

It has not yet been proven if there is a causal relationship between so-called second-hand exposure to radiation and health problems. Critics say emotional support for those who claim their health was affected by indirect exposure to radiation without scientific proof is irresponsible. Emotional support is important but objective facts should also be clarified.

Eight former U.S. soldiers who participated in Operation Tomodachi (friend) launched the lawsuit in California in December 2012. The number of plaintiffs has since surpassed 450.

In March 2011, 16 U.S. military vessels engaged in the operation, including the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, were exposed to radiation off Fukushima Prefecture. These vessels and the servicemen aboard them were engaged in the operation amid a radioactive plume from the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs have been suffering from such illnesses as leukemia, testis cancer, colon bleeding, ringing in their ears and a decline in eyesight since they returned home after participating in the operation.

They are suing Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the nuclear plant, Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd., and other Japanese and U.S. atomic power station manufacturers, demanding that a 1 billion dollar (some 100 billion yen) fund be set up to help the plaintiffs receive medical examinations and treatment.

The plaintiffs are hoping that their suit will be tried in the United States, while TEPCO is demanding that the case be heard in Japan.

In June 2015, TEPCO’s appeal over the jurisdiction over the trial was accepted, and a state appeal court is deliberating on the matter.

The aforementioned development of the case is based on interviews with former Prime Minister Koizumi, who met with some of the plaintiffs, and officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. TEPCO declined to comment on the matter on the grounds that the trial is ongoing.

Under the civil discovery system established by U.S. law, those involved in civil lawsuits can be forced to disclose evidence. Those who refuse to comply could be imprisoned or slapped with a huge fine for contempt of court. Critics say TEPCO demands that the suit be tried in Japan for this reason.

One cannot help but wonder what the company does not want to be exposed. There is a possibility that documents carrying information on the cause of the nuclear plant accident, TEPCO’s initial response to the disaster and observed data on aerial radiation levels — which is different from what the utility has explained — could be hidden. However, this is just a presumption without basis.

There is also an amicus curiae (court adviser) system, under which individuals or organizations appointed by courts provide information or express opinions on legal matters relating to individual court cases.

A former legislator has phoned the Mainichi Shimbun and raised questions about last week’s installment of this column, which quoted a magazine article as saying that an adviser from the Japanese government stated that U.S. forces are responsible for servicemen’s exposure to radiation while engaging in Operation Tomodachi.

Law360, a U.S.-based website specializing in information on legal affairs, lists the “Government of Japan” as the entity to which one of those who appeared in the oral proceeding on the lawsuit on Sept. 1 as court advisers belongs.

A senior official of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said, “The government isn’t aware of such a figure.” However, it would be no surprise if an adviser were to appear in court and develop a persuasive legal theory to pursue ways to evade legal responsibility on behalf of defendants.

Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs who examined plaintiffs’ assertions in 2014 at the request of U.S. Congress, stated there is no objective evidence that the plaintiffs’ health hazard was caused by their exposure to radiation.

The March 13, 2016 issue of Stars and Stripes, a U.S. daily specializing in U.S. military information, covered Woodson’s report along with a comment by Shinzo Kimura, associate professor of radiation hygiene at Dokkyo Medical University, that the possibility that the plaintiffs’ symptoms were caused by their radiation exposure cannot be ruled out.

There is a long way to go before the causes of the plaintiffs’ illnesses can be clarified. However, there is no denying that many people are suffering from illnesses after participating in Operation Tomodachi.

Donations to a fundraising drive launched by former Prime Minister Koizumi are accepted at the Tokyo-based Johnan Shinkin Bank. Koizumi will deliver a speech on the matter at a lecture meeting in Tokyo on the evening of Nov. 16. Those who want to listen to his speech are required to make reservations by calling the Japan Assembly for Nuclear Free Renewable Energy at 03-6262-3623. The admission fee of 10,000 yen per person will be fully donated to former U.S. soldiers who are suffering from illnesses.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161011/p2a/00m/0na/019000c

October 11, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Carlsbad, CA News Conference on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO

In March of 2011 as the still-ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster began, the US Navy sent a fleet of ships led by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to participate in an humanitarian earthquake and tsunami relief effort called Operation Tomadachi (‘friendship’ in Japanese).

Fleet commanders were not informed by either TEPCO, the nuclear plant operator, or by the Japanese government about the plume of radioactive fallout being blown out to sea from what was eventually admitted to be a triple meltdown.

US navel personnel and their ships and aircraft were repeatedly doused with radiation from the rapidly shifting plume, which contaminated equipment, the ships’ air & ventilation systems, as well as drinking and bathing water.

Today, over 400 of those irradiated personnel have joined in a lawsuit against TEPCO seeking medical costs and compensation for the serious health effects they are experiencing, including cancers, miscarriages and loss of multiple bodily functions. At least 7 so far have died of their radiation-induced illnesses.

The suit, filed in the US court in California by attorneys Charles and Cabral Bonner and Paul Garner, charges that TEPCO withheld information from the Navy that would have prevented the mass radiation exposure and is therefore responsible to pay reparations.

TEPCO’s army of high-priced lawyers have been fighting to block the suit for over 5 years, and the merits of the case have yet to be addressed by the court as plaintiffs continue to die.

Last May, when former Japanese Prime Minister heard of the sailors’ plight, he insisted on coming to the US to interview some of the victims himself.

After several days of face-to-face private conversations with a sampling of suit’s plaintiffs and their affected family members, Mr. Koizumi held a news conference announcing his support of the lawsuit. Fighting back tears, he described what he had learned in the interviews, and stated his intention to establish a fund to help with the plaintiffs’ medical expenses.

 

Pt. 1 Mr. Koizumi’s Statement

This is the first of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO.

 

Pt. 2 – Q&A
This is the second of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO.

 

Pt. 3 – A soldiers story – This is the third of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO.

September 15, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Tepco telling California 9th Circ. To Send Sailors’ $1B Fukushima Suit To Japan

TEPCO trying to block the hearing of this case in California under US law.

 

Watch recording for case: Lindsay Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Co., No. 15-56424

http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view_video.php?pk_vid=0000010155


9th Circ. Told To Send Sailors’ $1B Fukushima Suit To Japan

Law360, Los Angeles (September 1, 2016, 5:47 PM ET) — Tokyo Electric Power Co. urged the Ninth Circuit on Thursday to dismiss a $1 billion putative class action on behalf of 70,000 U.S. sailors allegedly exposed to radiation while responding to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, arguing the claims belong in Japan.

During oral arguments in Pasadena, California, Daniel Collins of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP, representing Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., the owner of the Fukushima nuclear plant, urged a three-judge panel to reverse U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino’s refusal to dismiss the suit….

http://www.law360.com/articles/835597/9th-circ-told-to-send-sailors-1b-fukushima-suit-to-japan

 

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | 1 Comment