By Motoko Rich
TOKYO — More than seven years after a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan acknowledged for the first time this week that a worker died from cancer after being exposed to radiation.
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said the man, who was not identified, had worked mostly at the Fukushima Daiichi plant over 28 years and had died of lung cancer.
Three years ago the government awarded workers’ compensation to a man who developed leukemia while working on the Fukushima cleanup, but this week marked the first acknowledgment that exposure to radiation at the site caused a death. The government has acknowledged that three other Fukushima workers developed leukemia and thyroid cancer after working on the plant cleanup. About 5,000 workers labor at the site daily.
According to the government, the man was responsible for measuring radiation at Fukushima Daiichi and wore a protective jumpsuit and a full face mask while working. The ministry said he had been exposed to a lifetime dose of 195 millisieverts of radiation after working at Fukushima and other plants.
Safety regulators say workers can be safely exposed to up to 50 millisieverts a year, but if a worker with an accumulated 100 millisieverts develops an illness after five years of exposure, that can be ruled an occupational injury. According to an expert cited by the Mainichi Shimbun, a daily newspaper, the man had been exposed to 74 millisieverts at the Fukushima plant since the accident.
According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun, a daily newspaper, 17 Fukushima plant workers have filed for workers’ compensation with the health ministry. Four have been granted compensation, and five claims have been rejected. Another five are pending, and two have withdrawn their claims.