It is 71 years since the atomic bombings over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hibakushas, survivors of the nuclear strike, get old, and their problems should be solved immediately, which include compensations from the government, certificates of atomic bombing diseases, social assistance to the survivors and those who live abroad and attention to the second and third generation descendants. One more issue is to help Hibakushas affected by the hydrogen bomb tests held by the United States in the Bikini Atoll, the Pacific Ocean. Fishermen radiated by the tests filed suits this year.
FISHERMEN LITIGATE GOVERNMENT FOR HIDING SURVEY DATA
Atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Several hundreds of thousands of people were radiated, but a precise number of the dead is yet unknown. Many died of disorders from radiation. Appeals to eliminate nuclear weapons were made to the public by the agonized Hibakushas, but news reporting was prohibited by the US occupation authority on the atomic bombings. People in general did not know well about the voices of elimination of nuclear arms.
Atomic Bombings Ended with Political Maneuver
Mass movements against the nuclear weapons were triggered by the US hydrogen bomb test conducted in the Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. A tuna fishing boat, Dai-go Fukuryumaru, was radiated by the falling ashes of death of the test. Twenty-three-crew contracted acute radiation disorders.
Other fishing boats operating around the site were affected, too. Every haul of tunas arriving at the Japanese ports was measured for radiation to be disposed of one after another. The incident severely shocked people. Soon they began to collect signatures from citizens to demand prohibition of atomic and hydrogen bombs. The campaign rapidly spread throughout the country.
The governments of the US and Japan negotiated in 1955, the following year, in a political context: the US was to pay 2 million dollars (720 million Yen in the exchange rate of the days) as gift money to the sick people. Thus, the boat, Dai-go Fukuryumaru, meant the first victims of hydrogen bombs in the history of mankind. It had sailed from a port of Shizuoka Prefecture for operation, and other ships had left various ports of the islands, including Kochi Prefecture.
It is 62 years since the hydrogen bomb test. Former fishermen have lived with fears of radiation effects to today. February this year they applied for compensation of industrial accident of the fishermen’s health insurance program. In May they sued the government of Japan for illegal acts of hiding data of surveys until the year of 2014 which the authorities conducted on fishermen who operated around the experiment site. Former fishermen and bereaved families of Kochi and other prefectures, counting 45 plaintiffs in total, filed a suit to the Kochi District Court against the government, demanding to pay 2 million Yen per person as damage compensation. This is the first lawsuit for damage compensation from the hydrogen bomb test in the Bikini Atoll.
Governments kept lying
The administrations have insisted in the Diet debates that no material is available except for those related to the Dai-go Fukuryumaru. That was a lie. Coverage on the American National Archives proved the fact. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare disclosed data in 2014 in accordance with a request to open data to the public. The government of Japan checked on 556 boats in total (of the 473 ships) during March and June of 1954: the survey data tell body parts of the radiation-affected fishermen and results of their urine and blood tests.
The Ministry tells the test results are of low levels that might not cause health damages. But, according to a group led by Prof. Toyoda Shin of Okayama University of Science, it detected in maximum 319 mili Sv. of radiation level from teeth of former fishermen, which is equal to a dose measured in the distance of 1.6 km apart from the epicenter of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This is a level to be certified as Hibakushas by the government.
Former fishermen have lived with physical disorders. But they do not know exactly what has caused the pain. This fact explains horror of radiation. The government should reexamine the fishermen. Most of the plaintiffs are in their 80s of age. Seventeen of them have died. Difficulties are anticipated in proving health damages. The lawsuit, however, has a great meaning of ‘verification of a history’.
August 2, 2016