Fukushima disaster: Japan acknowledges first radiation death from nuclear plant hit by tsunami
Photo: The powerful 2011 earthquake and tsunami claimed at least 15,000 lives. (Reuters: Mainichi Shimbun)
Japan has acknowledged for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami more than seven years ago, has died from radiation exposure.
The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry ruled that compensation should be paid to the family of the man in his 50s who died from lung cancer, an official said.
The worker had spent his career working at nuclear plants around Japan and worked at the Fukushima Daiichi plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power at least twice after the March 2011 meltdowns at the station.
He was diagnosed with cancer in February 2016, the official said.
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck in March 2011, triggering a tsunami that killed some 18,000 people and triggered the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.
The quake knocked out power to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the tsunami swamped diesel generators placed low in reactor buildings, leading to a series of explosions.
The ministry had previously ruled exposure to radiation caused the illnesses of four workers at Fukushima, the official said.
But this was the first death.
More than 160,000 people were forced from their homes after the meltdowns at the plant.
Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the chaos of evacuations during the crisis and because of the hardship and mental trauma refugees have experienced since then, but the government had said that radiation was not a cause.
Tokyo Electric is facing a string of legal cases seeking compensation over the disaster.
The news came as the northern Hokkaido region was hit by a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, sparking concerns at the three-reactor Tomari nuclear plant, which lost power as a result of the earthquake.
The Tomari plant has been in shutdown since the Fukushima disaster.
The Fukushima crisis led to the shutdown of the country's nuclear industry, once the world's third-biggest.
Seven reactors have come back online after a protracted relicensing process.
The majority of Japanese people remain opposed to nuclear power after Fukushima highlighted failings in regulation and operational procedures in the industry.