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First Fukushima-linked cancer case confirmed in plant worker

22 October 2015

Japan’s health ministry has for the first time confirmed that leukaemia found in a worker at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant is a result of the March 2011 meltdown and radiation release, national broadcaster NHK said. The unnamed worker  was in his thirties while working at the plant following the 2011 crisis. He is now 41 years old.

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"This person went to see a doctor because was not feeling well. That was when he was diagnosed with leukaemia," a health ministry official told a press briefing on October 20 on condition of anonymity, adding that other possible causes had been ruled out.

The official revealed few details about the man, but said he had worked in a building that housed one of the plant's crippled reactors.

The man, who wore protective equipment during more than a year spent at Fukushima, will be awarded compensation to pay for his medical costs and lost income, the official said, without elaborating on the amount.

No deaths have been directly attributed to the radiation released during the 2011 accident, but it has displaced tens of thousands of people and left large areas uninhabitable, possibly for decades.

Former Fukushima plant manager Masao Yoshida died two years after the accident at the age of 58, but site operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has disputed whether his esophageal cancer was linked to radiation.

Yoshida stayed at his post in a desperate bid to tame the plant’s three runaway reactors, while his workers battled frequent aftershocks to try to prevent the disaster from worsening.
Tepco declined to immediately comment on the health ministry’s announcement. It could face huge lawsuits if radiation leaks can be clearly linked to health issues.

The announcement could further inflame widespread public opposition to nuclear power, and could frustrate efforts to resettle evacuees in communities around the crippled Fukushima plant that have been deemed safe.

In early October, utility Kyushu Electric Power restarted the No.2 reactor at Sendai, about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Sendai's No.1 reactor was restarted in August, ending a two-year period of closure for all the country’s nuclear plants.

Tokyo has said it would continue to restart reactors that are deemed safe under strengthened regulatory standards.


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