TOKYO, Oct. 20 (UPI) — Japan has confirmed its first cancer case in connection with cleanup work after the nuclear disaster that struck the Fukushima Daichi plant in 2011.
Tokyo’s health ministry said a former Fukushima worker has been diagnosed with leukemia, and that the man in his 30s worked at the plant until 2013, CNN reported.
The leukemia could have been caused by radiation exposure, and the ministry said the unidentified patient is currently receiving treatment, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“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,” said environmental NGO Greenpeace in a statement.
Several other workers at Fukushima Daichi have filed cases but some were dropped; three are now pending, according to the health ministry.
News of the first Fukushima leukemia case comes a week after Japan restarted its second nuclear reactor at its Sendai complex in Kyushu, despite popular opposition to nuclear energy use in the country.
Japan’s commercial reactors were shut down in May 2012, more than a year after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Fukushima on March 11, 2011, causing the world’s biggest nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
More than 44,000 people have worked at the Fukushima plant as part of cleanup and decommissioning projects. The Journal reported 15,408 of the workers were exposed to radiation exceeding 10 millisieverts, and that exposure occurred near damaged reactor buildings.
People are typically exposed to 2.4 millisieverts of radiation annually, according to data from the United Nations.
The leukemia patient was awarded compensation after it was determined he was exposed to 15.7 millisieverts of radiation at one plant, bringing his total exposure to 19.8 millisieverts.