Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

U.S. Sailors Sick From Fukushima Radiation


Citing a wide range of ailments from leukemia to blindness to birth defects, 79 American veterans of 2011’s earthquake/tsunami relief Operation Tomadachi (“Friendship”) have filed a new $1 billion class action lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power.

The suit includes an infant born with a genetic condition to a sailor who served on the USS Ronald Reagan as radiation poured over it during the Fukushima melt-downs, and an American teenager living near the stricken site. It has also been left open for “up to 70,000 U.S. citizens [who were] potentially affected by the radiation and will be able to join the class action suit.”

The re-filing comes as Tepco admits that it has underestimated certain radiation readings by a factor of five. And as eight more thyroid cancers have surfaced among children in the downwind region.Two new earthquakes have also struck near the Fukushima site.

The amended action was filed in federal court in San Diego on Feb. 6, which would have been Reagan’s 103rd birthday. It says Tepco failed to disclose that the $4.3 billion nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was being heavily dosed from three melt-downs and four explosions at the Fukushima site. The Reagan was as close as a mile offshore as the stricken reactors poured deadly clouds of radiation into the air and ocean beginning the day after the earthquake and tsunami. It also sailed through nuclear plumes for more than five hours while about 100 miles offshore. The USS Reagan (CVN-76) is 1,092 feet long and was commissioned on July 12, 2003. The flight deck covers 4.5 acres, carries 5,500 sailors and more than 80 aircraft.

Reagan crew members reported that in the middle of a snowstorm, a cloud of warm air enveloped them with a “metallic taste.” The reports parallel those from airmen who dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima, and from central Pennsylvanians downwind from Three Mile Island. Crew members drank and bathed in desalinated sea water that was heavily irradiated from Fukushima’s fallout.

As a group, the sailors comprise an especially young, healthy cross-section of people. Some also served on the amphibious assault ship Essex, missile cruiser Cowpens and several others.

The plaintiffs’ ailments parallel those of downwinders irradiated at Hiroshima/Nagasaki (1945), during atmospheric Bomb tests (1946-1963), and from the radiation releases at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986). Among them are reproductive problems and “illnesses such as Leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removals, brain cancer, testicular cancer, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, thyroid illnesses, stomach ailments and a host of other complaints unusual in such young adults.”

One 22-year-old sailor declared to the court that “Upon my return from Operation Tomodachi, I began losing my eyesight. I lost all vision in my left eye and most vision in my right eye. I am unable to read street signs and am no longer able to drive. Prior to Operation Tomodachi, I had 2/20 eyesight, wore no glasses and had no corrective surgery.” Additionally, he said, “I know of no family members who have had leukemia.”

Plaintiff “Baby A.G.” was born to a Reagan crew member on Oct. 15, 2011—seven months after the crew members exposure—with multiple birth defects.

The suit asks for at least $1 billion to “advance and pay all costs and expenses for each of the Plaintiffs for medical examination, medical monitoring and treatment by physicians,” as well as for more general damages.

Both Tepco and the Navy say not enough radiation was released from Fukushima to harm the sailors or their offspring. But neither can say exactly how much radiation that might have been or where it went. The Navy has discontinued a program that might have tracked the sailors’ health in the wake of their irradiation.

After its four days offshore from Fukushima the governments of Japan, South Korea and Guam refused the Reagan port entry because of its high radiation levels. The Navy has since exposed numerous sailors in a major decontamination effort whose results are unclear.

Now docked in San Diego, the Reagan’s on-going safety has become a political hot potato. The $6 billion carrier is at the core of the U.S. Naval presence in the Pacific. Critics say it’s too radioactive to operate or to scrap, and that it should be sunk, as were a number of U.S. ships contaminated by atmospheric Bomb tests in the South Pacific. There are also rumors the Navy is considering deploying the Reagan to a port in Japan, where protests would be almost certain.

Filed on Dec. 12, 2012, the initial suit involved just eight plaintiffs. It was amended to bring the total to 51.

That action was thrown out at the end of 2013 by federal Judge Janis S. Sammartino on jurisdictional grounds.

A January deadline for re-filing this second amended complaint was delayed as additional plaintiffs kept coming forward. Attorneys Paul Garner and Charles Bonner say still more are being processed.

The suit charges Tepco lied to the public—including Japan’s then Prime Minister Naoto Kan—about the accident’s radioactive impacts. Kan says Unit One melted within five hours of the earthquake, before U.S. fleet arrived. Such news is unwelcome to an industry with scores more reactors in earthquake zones worldwide.

The Plaintiffs say Tepco negligently leveled a natural seawall to cut water pumping expenses. The ensuing tsunami then poured over the site’s unprotected power supply, forcing desperate workers to scavenge car batteries from a nearby parking lot to fire up critical gauges. Tepco belatedly dispatched 11 power supply trucks that were immediately stuck in traffic.

Similar reports of fatal cost-cutting, mismanagement and the use and abuse of untrained personnel run throughout the 65-page complaint.

Attorney Bonner will explain much of it on the Solartopia Radio show at 5 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Some 4,000 supporters have signed petitions at nukefree.orgmoveon.orgAvaaz and elsewhere.

Feb. 11—like the eleventh day of every month—will be a worldwide fast day for those supporting the victims of Fukushima’s deepening disaster.

The future of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, the nuclear power industry and a growing group young sailors tragically afflicted by Fukushima’s secret fallout will be hanging in the balance.

Harvey Wasserman edits and wrote Solartopia!  Our Green-Powered Earth.  With he and others are presenting petitions to the United Nations with more than 150,000 signatures calling for a global takeover of the situation at Fukushima.  This piece first appeared on

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?