The past three years have witnessed numerous public-generated lawsuits concerning the Fukushima accident. Some want Tepco officials tried as criminals, but many more have tried to make Tepco pay even more to the evacuees than the generous stipends currently being given them. All of these legal actions have one thing in common; none have been successful. But, one thing is certain…the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the failed cases have succeeded in getting paid.
Now, reason for litigation emerges that defies logic. In this case, the evacuees are neither asking for money nor alleging that Tepco officials are criminals. Rather, they are trying to prove that the government is breaking the law by allowing them to return home! This is a turn-about that takes one’s breath away. For four years, the constant mantra of the Fukushima refugees has been that they cannot return home. Now that some can, they try to sue Tokyo for getting their wish, based on what seems to be a fabrication…and there are attorneys who have agreed to represent them.
Minamisoma residents are going to sue the Tokyo government for lifting evacuation restrictions on about 150 homes. Rather than be relieved, many are willing to risk their money to prove that the removal of restrictions has placed their health and well-being in jeopardy. Based on what? They contend that the limit for radiation exposure under the law on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness has always been one millisievert per year, but the restriction was lifted at a level of 20 mSv/yr. The plaintiff’s attorney purports, “The government has selfishly raised the limit on annual public radiation exposure from 1 millisievert set before the nuclear crisis to 20 millisieverts, having residents return to their homes still exposed to high doses of radiation. This is an illegal act that violates the residents’ right to a healthy environment guaranteed by the Constitution and international human rights laws.” (1)
However, upon studying both the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness (2) and the inter-related Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness (3), we find nothing about a one mSv/yr limitation on repopulation. There is no radiation exposure levels stated for repopulation, at all. Further, there is no mention of 1 mSv/yr anywhere in either of the documents. In point of fact, the lowest actual rate of exposure mentioned in either of the above, is in reference #3. It states that the operator of a nuclear plant must notify local officials when measurements at the site’s property boundary reaches or exceeds five mSv per hour! There are other criteria with higher stated dose-rate trigger points, but the 5 mSv/hr level is the one referenced repeatedly in the Law allegedly being violated by Tokyo. It is the lowest stated exposure level to be found, and it has nothing to do with repopulation.
Further, the stipulation that Japan’s citizens have a right to health and well-being is not in either of these legal documents. It is only to be found in yet another law – Basic Law of Disaster Countermeasures (4) – which applies to all cataclysms. (Article 3; paragraph 1) Even in this law, there is no mention of a one mSv/yr limit for repopulation, or anything else, for that matter.
One mSv/yr was a decontamination goal created by the Tokyo government under the now-deposed Democratic Party of Japan regime. 20 mSv/yr was initially invoked as a decontamination goal, based on guidelines held by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. However, Japan’s politically-vocal demographic claimed that 20 mSv/yr was not safe enough, so the DPJ under PMs Kan and Noda kept lowering the decontamination goal until public pressure became a non-burden to them. The final decontamination goal was set at 1mSv/yr. A goal is not a legal limit, but it seems the future suit’s plaintiffs believe otherwise, and their well-paid attorney is going along with it.
Clearly, there is no just cause for the lawsuit. In the interest of correctness, the attorneys for the plaintiffs ought to advise their clients that they have no case based on what is contained in Law on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, or the other two laws that apparently overlap it. However, it is not the best of all possible worlds in Japan with respect to the Fukushima accident. If plaintiffs claim harm, or potential harm, relative to the radiation that came from Fukushima, they will always be able to find attorneys willing to be paid as the suit’s legal representation. Whether or not their clients actually have a case doesn’t seem to matter. Instead of chasing ambulances, some attorneys in Japan are chasing the Fukushima accident.