First Cancer Case Related to Fukushima Diagnosed in Japan

Fukushima worker diagnosed with cancer
Workers wearing radiation protective gear rest on a road at the d Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on November 12, 2014. Japan has confirmed that a worker from the nuclear plant is now suffering from cancer. Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool/Reuters

A worker from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which went into meltdown in 2011, is suffering from cancer, AFP reported.

A Japanese health ministry official confirmed on Tuesday that the unnamed man in his 40s, who worked at the plant as part of a clean-up operation following the disaster, has leukemia and would be awarded compensation to pay his medical costs and lost income. The official did not specify how much this would amount to.

The man is the first person to qualify for compensation as a result of a workplace accident in relation to the March 2011 disaster, when an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which lies around 130 miles northeast of the capital Tokyo. The natural disaster sparked a triple nuclear meltdown at the plant and prompted the evacuation of more than 160,000 residents from nearby areas in what was the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

No deaths have been directly attributed to the accident, but another three cases of cancer in plant workers are currently being assessed to establish whether there is a link with their time at the plant.

"While the causal link between his exposure to radiation and his illness is unclear, we certified him from the standpoint of worker compensation," said a Japanese health ministry official, speaking to the Kyodo news agency.

As of July, the Japanese government had committed more than 7 trillion yen ($58.5 billion) in aid to victims of the Fukushima crisis, The Japan Times reported; tens of thousands of residents continued to live in temporary accommodation more than four years after the disaster, despite that more than 45,000 people have been involved in cleanup operations since the accident.

The man was a contractor who worked at the Fukushima plant between October 2012 and December 2013, as well as other nuclear facilities. Desite wearing protective equipment while working at Fukushima, he received a total dose of 19.8 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation during his work at multiple nuclear sites, 15.7 mSv of which was received at Fukushima, according to officials.

The BBC reported that the worker's total dosage is more than four times the limit recommended for nuclear workers in Japan, but less than half the amount U.S. nuclear workers can be exposed to in a year.

All of Japan's nuclear power plants were shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. However, two nuclear reactors at the Sendai nuclear plant, 620 miles southwest of Tokyo, have been restarted since August. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to reassure the Japanese people that the industry is safe, but public mood has not been favorable towards nuclear energy in a country that was the target of two atomic bombs during World War II.

In August, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report that assessed the health risks present as a result of the Fukushima disaster. The IAEA's Director General Yukiya Amano wrote that, in the case of Fukushima, radiation doses to members of the public "were low and comparable with typical global average background doses." Amano also observed that "no discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects is expected among exposed members of the public and their descendants as a result of the accident."