Within weeks of setting off a geiger counter and scrubbing three layers of skin off his hands and arms, former Navy quartermaster Maurice Enis recalled being pressured to sign away U.S. government liability for any future health problems.
Enis and about 5,000 fellow sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier had finally left Japan, after 80-some days aiding victims of the March 11, 2011,Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, and were about to take a long-awaited port call in Thailand.
But first, they were told they needed to fill out some paperwork.
“They had us sign off that we were medically fine, had no sickness, and that we couldn’t sue the U.S. government,” Enis told The Huffington Post, recalling widespread anger among the sailors who saw it as “B.S.” but who also felt they had little choice.
On Monday, the two-year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, Enis joined a lawsuit with more than 100 other service members who participated in the rescue mission and who have since developed medical issues they contend are related to radioactive fallout from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Rather than targeting the U.S. government, the federal lawsuit names plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. the defendant.