Sailors suing Tokyo Electric Power Company for $1 billion in wake of rescue efforts after tsunami

Claim utility lied about radiation danger

SAN DIEGO - Navy sailors have gone to U.S. District Court to file suit seeking damages against a Japanese utility.

When an earthquake hit Japan three years ago, it was quickly followed by a tsunami and the meltdown and explosions of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima.

The USS Ronald Reagan was dispatched on a humanitarian mission to deliver food and water to victims. It was two miles offshore when a nuclear cloud is reported to have enveloped the ship, one with a metallic taste.

The Reagan then steamed to 100 miles away but transcripts tell of radiation levels onboard estimated at 30 times normal at that distance.

Dozens of cases of cancer and a baby's birth defects are being blamed on the fallout. It is heart-wrenching evidence if and when the lawsuit filed in San Diego federal court goes to trial.

Seventy-nine U.S. Navy sailors are suing for $1 billion, claiming the utility lied about the danger.

"It's wholly implausible," Tokyo Electric Power lawyers wrote, "that military commanders in charge of thousands of personnel and armed with some of the world's most sophisticated equipment, relied instead only on the press releases and public statements of a foreign electric utility company."   

KGTV-TV asked local environmental attorney Cory Briggs about that statement.  

“I think one of the first places the military command would go to for information is the utility," he said. "The utility presumably knows what's going on better than anybody since it's their facility."

He added that he would expect Japanese attorneys to fight jurisdiction here in the United States.

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