Photo/IllutrationPlaintiffs and their lawyers blast a ruling by the Fukuoka High Court over their demand for access to free medical care in Fukuoka on Dec. 10. (Motoki Nagasawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

FUKUOKA--A court here has overturned a 2016 ruling that granted free medical care to 10 people who experienced the Nagasaki atomic bombing, despite being situated outside the designated nuclear zone.

Explaining its Dec. 10 decision, the Fukuoka High Court said there is no scientific basis for anticipated health hazards for the individuals, as their exposure to radiation from the blast on Aug. 9, 1945, was low.

The plaintiffs are set to appeal the court's decision.

The lawsuit was originally filed at the Nagasaki District Court by a group of 161 plaintiffs seeking free medical care from the Nagasaki prefectural and municipal governments through the issuance of special health booklets.

Although the 10 plaintiffs lived inside the 12-kilometer radius but outside the atomic-bombed zone designated by the central government in 1957, the court sided with them, granting their claim.

The area is irregular in shape, as it spans 24 km north to south and 14 km east to west.

People who lived in or were in the zone at the time of the nuclear explosion were recognized as hibakusha and were eligible to receive free medical treatment.

In the 2016 ruling, the court cited a doctor’s estimate for each individual’s exposure to radiation based on data gathered by a team of U.S. researchers who visited Nagasaki to monitor radiation levels in September and October 1945.

However, the high court did not accept the doctor’s estimate, saying the figures “could have been higher than they actually were,” noting that the research team checked radiation levels closer to the ground than the international norm.

In overturning the district court’s decision, the high court endorsed the argument by the prefectural and municipal authorities, saying, “There is no established scientific knowledge that exposure to low-level radiation, up to 100 millisieverts a year, could result in health problems.”

The court accepted the defendants’ contention that the radiation levels in the area they (the plaintiffs) lived in would not have exceeded about 18.7 millisieverts a year even when the levels were highest.