Japan Paying 1st Fukushima Worker With Cancer
Country concedes possible radiation link, awards compensation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2015 10:40 AM CDT
In this Nov. 12, 2014, file photo, workers wearing protective gear rest on the side of a road at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, Pool, File)

(Newser) – A Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant worker is the first diagnosed with cancer from possible radiation exposure and will receive compensation under the country's labor laws, the Japanese health and labor ministry said Tuesday, per the Wall Street Journal. The unnamed man, said by various sources to be in his late 30s to early 40s, developed leukemia after working at the plant for between a year and 18 months after the March 2011 disaster. The average person is exposed to 2.4 millisieverts of radiation a year, while the worker was exposed to 15.7 millisieverts (19.8 millisieverts when other plants he's worked at are taken into account). "This is a massive blow to the [International Atomic Energy Agency], which stated in September of this year that no discernible health effects due to the exposure to radiation released by the accident are to be expected," Greenpeace said in a statement, per CNN.

The Japanese government has been reticent in linking radiation exposure to cancer, blaming hundreds of deaths instead on other mental and physical hardships residents endured, NBC News notes. The announcement comes just weeks after two nuclear reactors were restarted at Fukushima, and nearby "ghost town" Naraha finally got its evacuation order removed. More than 70,000 Fukushima prefecture residents still can't return home, per the Journal. Up to 10 other workers have also applied for compensation, though many requests have already been denied or withdrawn, per CNN and the Journal. Total cleanup and decommissioning of the plant is to stretch at least four decades, per the Journal, with the Tokyo Electric Power Company anticipating spending tens of billions to complete the job, NBC notes. (Ultrasounds on kids who live nearby show alarming results for their thyroids.)