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U.S. sailors sue Tokyo co. over radiation

Dec. 28, 2012 - 02:49PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 28, 2012 - 02:49PM  |  
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SAN DIEGO A group of sailors who served aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan after a massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan in 2011 is suing Tokyo Electric Power Co. for allegedly conspiring to lie or mislead the public about the extent of radiation exposure.

The sailors, in a 36-page complaint filed Dec. 21 in U.S. District Court in San Diego, say TEPCO was negligent after the March 11, 2011, disaster and allege company officials knew the potential health risks but convinced others and "lulled" the Navy into "a false sense of security."

The group includes eight Reagan crew members and the infant daughter of a female boatswain's mate who worked on the flight deck and was pregnant during the deployment. They allege they were "poisoned" and exposed to radiation released by the damaged reactors and cooling mechanisms at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

They claim the company failed to warn them of potential harm during the humanitarian and disaster relief effort called Operation Tomodachi.

Despite reports of leaking radiation from the Fukushima plant, TEPCO and government officials at the time dismissed or minimized concerns about radiation exposures, the sailors claim in the lawsuit, "despite the fact that the defendant knew that higher levels of radiation existed within the area whereat the plaintiffs and their vessel would be and were operating."

TEPCO "was aware that exposure to even a low dose of radiation creates a danger to one's health and that is important to accurately report actual levels," they also allege. TEPCO and the government of Japan "conspired... to create an illusory impression that the extent of radiation that had leaked... was at levels that would not pose a threat to the plaintiffs."

Paul C. Garner, an Encinitas, Calif., attorney who is representing the sailors, said a copy of the complaint was delivered to TEPCO's office in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 21.

A TEPCO spokesman, Yusuke Kunikage">told Bloomberg News on Dec. 27 that company officials had not received the complaint but said "we will consider a response after examining the claim."

The claim seeks a jury trial along with damages, including $40 million in compensatory and punitive damages for each plaintiff and the establishment by TEPCO of a $100 million fund to cover any of their medical and treatment costs.

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