Compensation is to be paid out for the first time to a Fukushima disaster worker who has developed cancer. He will receive financial assistance for medical costs and his lost income due to the illness, although the exact amount has not been revealed.
On March 11, 2011, a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company. Following the accident, 160,000 people were relocated, and many areas around it remain uninhabitable.
The unnamed man, in his 40s, was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2014. He worked at the Fukushima site to install covers on two of the damaged reactor buildings between October 2012 and December 2013. During this time he was exposed to 16 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation at Fukushima and 4 mSv at another nuclear plant, four times the annual dose allowed for nuclear workers in Japan, although less than half that in the U.S.
“While the causal link between his exposure to radiation and his illness is unclear, we certified him from the standpoint of worker compensation,” said an official of the Japanese Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry, reported the Japan Times.
The link between relatively low-dose radiation exposure and cancer is contentious; as of yet, it’s unclear if doses below 100 mSv can significantly raise the risk of cancer. Nonetheless, this case opens the door to others seeking compensation, with three others pending. More than 9,000 other workers at the plant have been exposed to more than 20 mSv following the accident.
Nuclear power in Japan remains a controversial area. All of Japan’s nuclear reactors were shut off following the accident, but two have since reopened – to considerable hostility. The government is keen to get back to nuclear power, though, as the country is currently having to import expensive fossil fuels for its energy needs.