Posted Oct. 20, 2015, International Business Times:
” A former worker involved in Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant cleanup efforts has been diagnosed with cancer related to radiation exposure, Japan’s NHK broadcaster reported Tuesday. This is the first case of cancer attributed to the nuclear plant cleanup.
The man, who was in his 30s at the time of the plant’s recovery project, was diagnosed with leukemia, according to NHK. The country’s health ministry approved his worker compensation, the report added.
“The case has met the criteria” for radiation-related cancer,” an official with the health ministry said, according to Agence France-Presse.
In March 2011, an earthquake-triggered tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling mechanisms at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing a meltdown of three nuclear reactors and release of radioactive materials in the first three days.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), said that over 44,000 people were involved in the cleanup work following the meltdown. The diagnosed worker, who was not identified, is now 41 and worked on cleanup efforts at reactors No.3 and No.4 from 2012 to 2013, the Washington Post reported citing Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun.
TEPCO gives monthly updates on the workers’ radiation exposure at the plant to the health ministry. According to the company, the radiation exposure dose limit at the plant site is 1.71 mSv per month, and in August, TEPCO stated that the average worker’s radiation exposure was at .31 mSv. However, the worker diagnosed with leukemia had accumulated exposed doses of 16 mSv, Asahi Shimbun reported, according to the Post.
“First signs of big trouble ahead for TEPCO as radiation exposure looks to be taking its toll on workers’ health,” Amir Anvarzadeh, Singapore-based global head of Japan equity sales at BGC Capital Partners Inc., told Bloomberg. “TEPCO could be facing huge lawsuits if and when radiation leaks are linked to health issues,” Anvarzadeh added.
In September, the Asahi Shimbun reported that a person living near the plant was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, bringing the total number of cases of the disease to 104 since the nuclear disaster. However, the prefectural government committee investigating health problems following the disaster said at the time that the thyroid cancer cases were not caused by the nuclear power plant accident. ”
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Updated Oct. 22, 2015, The Asahi Shimbun:
” A welder who was the first worker to win compensation from the government after contracting leukemia following radiation exposure at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant hopes his victory will lead the way for similar cases.
“I was fortunate to be the first, and I hope that my case will give impetus for other nuclear plant workers who suffer from cancer to receive compensation,” said the man, 41, in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun. “If there are other people who worked at the Fukushima plant and became cancer patients, I hope they promptly get proper compensation.”
The health ministry announced Oct. 20 that it had awarded workers’ compensation to the married father of three children, who was exposed to radiation at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture following the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The man, who lives in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, formerly worked for Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s partner company, and was engaged in construction and welding activities near the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the crippled plant between 2012 and 2013.
He said he was notified by phone of the ministry’s decision to award compensation from an official at a labor standards inspection office on the morning of Oct. 20.
“I was relieved to hear the decision,” he said.
The man was first diagnosed as suffering from acute myelogenous leukemia during a checkup in January 2014, two weeks after he left the Fukushima plant.
While he had been exposed to 16 millisieverts of radiation at the Fukushima facility by that time, he also received a dose of 4 millisieverts during a three-month periodic inspection of the Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture in 2012.
“Initially, I did not think the illness was caused by radiation exposure,” the man said.
At one time, he became critically ill from an infection as his immunity had deteriorated through the use of anticancer drugs. He said he desperately fought to stay alive because he was worried about his family’s financial situation if it was deprived of its breadwinner.
His cancer is now in remission with it no longer being detectable by medical tests, but the possibility for a relapse remains. He has no idea when he can return to his welding job.
But the man emphasized he does not regret applying to work at the Fukushima plant.
“I decided to go to Fukushima hoping that I could make some contribution to the recovery of the disaster-stricken communities, and I have no regret over my decision,” he said.
He said he has heard about a case of another former worker who contracted leukemia after working for many years at nuclear power plants. That worker could not file an application for the government compensation as his company did not recognize a causal link between the disease and his job.
According to government insurance standards for nuclear industry workers introduced in 1976, the government pays compensation to workers who are exposed to 5 millisieverts or higher levels of radiation annually and develop leukemia more than a year after they first engaged in work that could expose them to radiation, if other factors can be excluded.
During a news conference on Oct. 20, the health ministry officials said the certification of compensation did not mean that a link between radiation exposure and effects on his health had been scientifically proved.
“Based on the spirit of workers’ compensation insurance, we gave consideration to his case from a standpoint that he should not miss compensation (he might be eligible for),” a ministry official said.
“We also took into account that the maximum permissible radiation dose for ordinary people was 5 millisieverts annually when it was introduced in 1976,” the official said. ”