Japanese Radioactive Injured Fishermen Case

Lucky Dragon Incident

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          CASE NUMBER:   310
          CASE NAME:     Lucky Dragon Radiation


1.   The Issue

     At 6:45 on the morning of 1 March 1954, eight years after
testing in the Marshall Island began, the US detonated a bomb
codenamed "Bravo" on the island of Bikini.  The bomb was equivalent
to 17 megatons of TNT, 1,300 times the destructive force of the
bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and was specifically designed to create
a vast amount of lethal fallout.  That morning wind was blowing in
the direction of two inhabited atolls, Rongelap and Utrik, roughly
100 and 300 miles from Bikini.  A Japanese tuna fishing boat, the
Lucky Dragon, was caught in the path of Bravo's fallout.  It was
100 miles east of Bikini when the bomb was detonated.  The crew
members suffered from radiation sickness, and one of the them died
of liver and blood damage on 23 September.  The Lucky Dragon
Incident touched several sensitive issues in Japan: the atomic
legacy of World War II; disruption in the supply of fish; a
principal food item; curtailment of fishing rights on the high sea;
and a deep-rooted concern that the United States was insensitive to
the feelings and sufferings of the Japanese people and unduly
preoccupied with the development of weapons for mass destruction. 
2.   Description

     The nuclear incident that sparked a massive outcry in Japan
against the U.S.'s testing of nuclear weapons.  On 1 March 1954 a
90.7-ton Japanese fishing boat, the Daigo Fukuryu maru (Lucky
Dragon V), while operating in the central Pacific, was sprayed by
a cloud of radio active ash.  This accident was caused by a US
thermonuclear weapon test on Bikini Island ( part of the Marshall
Islands ), 135 kilometer (85 mi) to the west of the boat.  Earlier
that year, US authorities had issued a general warning defining a
danger zone around Bikini, but no specific warning had been given
regarding the timing or location of the various tests.  The
Japanese crew apparently knew of the warning and assumed that they
were operating outside the danger area.  Their tuna trawler was in
fact about 32 kilometers (20 mi ) outside the zone.  

     Early that morning, several members of the crew had noticed a
bright light in the sky to the west, and about six to seven minutes
later they heard a loud explosion, which they speculated might have
been caused by a "pikadon", as the atomic bomb was called popularly
called.  For nearly three hours sandy ash rained down on the boat. 
Soon, most of the 23 crew members has began to suffer nausea, pain,
and skin inflammation, but they did not associate these symptom
with the explosion and had made no radio report of the incident.  

     After running to their home port of Yaizu in Shizuoka
prefecture on 14 March, they reported their ailments to a local
doctor.  An observant student passed the news to Yomiuri Shinbun
reporter; as a result, the Tokyo office of the newspaper scored a
major scoop with its report of the incident and of the treatment of
the two crew members who had been sent to Tokyo University Hospital
for examination.  

     The condition of the crew members and the circumstances of
their injuries became matters of worldwide interest and intense
concern in Japan for months to come.  All of the crew members were
hospitalized in Tokyo.  Several were in poor condition for some
time, and one, Kuboyama Aikichi, the radio telegraph operator, died
on September 1954.  The precise cause of his death was disputed,
some experts claiming that it was due primarily to radioactive
damage to the liver and others arguing that the prime cause was
infectious hepatitis brought on by frequent blood transfusions. 
The United State donated 1 million yen ( US $ 2,800 ) to the widow
as a gesture of sympathy.  The remaining crew members all recovered
with no apparent after effects despite their exposure to powerful
doses of radiation abroad ship while returning to Japan. 

     Following extended negotiation, United States made a payment
of $ 2 million to the Japanese government on January  1955, without
legal liability, to compensate for all injuries and damages caused
as a result of the five nuclear tests it has conducted in the
Marshal Island, including damage and injuries sustained by the crew
of the Daigo Fukuryo maru.  Each crew member got an average of $
5,000; the remainder went to pay their medical expenses and the
damage done to the tuna industry.  The Lucky Dragon itself,
stripped down and decontaminated, was purchased by the government. 
Renamed the Hayabusa-Maru ( Dark Falcon), it became a training
vessel for the University of Tokyo's Fisheries School.  In a
statement made on 31 March 1954, the chairman of the United State
Atomic Energy Commission noted  the power of the 1 March test had
been about double that calculated.  Experts estimate that the
actual yield was the equivalent of about 15 megatons of TNT, one
thousand times the power of the atomic bombs exploded at Hiroshima
on 6 August 1945, and that this bomb had been of a new type
combining fission and fusion process.      

          The Detail about the crisis mounts 

     Yashushi Nishiwaki, a young biophysics professor at the city
university who had read about the Lucky Dragon in Yomiuri Shinbun,
called the city health office to see if any fish from Yaizu had
been shipped there.  Soon he was summoned to the Osaka central
market where he found  tuna, to his astonishment, that rattled his
Geiger counter at 60,000 counts per minute.  City officials,
discovering from the scales and paper wrappings, that contained
fish had already  been eaten by about a hundred people, pleaded
with him for advice.  Fear swept through the city when the evening
papers carries the story.  The reaction was immediate and
despirate-people stopped buying fish. 

     The doctors who examine crew members and the young
biophysicist had similar problems.  They could not tell how badly
the men had been hurt, and Nishiwaki could not set a level of
permissible contamination for fish, without knowing how strong the
source of original radiation had been.  Even after he had made a
trip to Yaizu to inspect the ship and its crew he knew days would
pass before his analysis of the ash be completed.  Nishiwaki
therefore wrote  the US Atomic Energy Commission, asking that
Japanese scientists be told what elements had been in the H-bomb. 
He gave the letter to a representative of an American press
service, thinking that would be the fastest way to reach the United

      However, the letter was never transmitted.  It was blocked by
the chief of wire service's Tokyo bureau.  Later Nishiwaki learned
that the decision had been made on the grounds that he was an
alarmist who was obviously seeking publicity.  This attitude, on
the part of some Americans puzzled and irritated and eventually
alienated Japanese scientists and laymen alike.  The incident
marked the beginning of a wide and unnecessary rift between the two

     The doctors in Tokyo and a team from the same hospital that
had now examined the men in Yaizu were also fighting against time
to learn the content of the ash.  In handling the victims of the
ash, they could draw on the wealth of medical information gained by
systematic study of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  This
had been carried out by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, a co-
operative research facility that had been established at Hiroshima,
where thousands of individuals had been carefully examined and
reexamined.  But what confused the situation now was the presence
of residual radioactivity.  Even after hair cuts, nail-clippings,
and a throughout scrubbing, the fishermen retained some
radioactivity on their skin.  This was something with which the
Japanese doctors had no practice experience, and they were in the
dark about how deep-seated the injury to the men might be.

     Officials of University of  Tokyo had requested assistance
from the Atomic Bomb Casualty and, in response Dr, John Morton
arrived in Tokyo on March 18.  He visited the two patients at the
university hospital and discussed the condition with attending
physicians.  He assured the Japanese doctors that the United States
would be ready to assist and offer to have antibiotics delivered to
the hospital.  Before leaving for Yaizu, Dr. Morton stated that he
had found fishermen in better shape than he had expected and that
the twenty-tree fishermen would recover in two or three weeks, a
month at the most.

      It was at this time that Senator John Pastore of Rhode Island
passed through Tokyo on a brief visit and presumably was briefed by
authorities there on the condition of he Lucky Dragon crew. 
Senator Pastore, a member of the joint Congressional Committee on
Atomic Energy, returned the United State and gave an interview to
the press in which he made a very optimistic statement about the
fishermen's recovery.  This was but one of a series of semi-
official opinions voiced in America which aggravated the delicate
relations between Americans and Japanese in Japan.  

     News from America continued to be featured in the Japanese
press.  For the first time semi-official information about the huge
explosion came out into the open.  Representative James Van Zandt,
a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania and a member of the
Joint Committee, stated that March 1 H-bomb explosion had equaled
the blast of twelve to fourteen million tons of TNT.  The new
Bikini bomb was of incredible destructiveness.  That led Japanese
newspapers to run editorials urging that the danger area around the
Eniwetok Proving Grounds be enlarged; and the U.S. government
promptly issued a notice doing precisely this.  The new danger area
encompassed about 400,000 square miles of territory, or about eight
times the area formed by the previous designated zone.      On
March 19 the Maritime Safety Board in Japan announced the new
limits.  All boats fishing in this area, or taking passage through
it, were required to put in at five designated ports and be
inspected for radioactivity.  The ports specified were Shiogama,
Shimizu on the island of Shikoku, Yaizu, Tokyo, and Misaki, the
great tuna center near Tokyo.

     Establishing the official inspection stations was a step which
the Japanese government took to stem the rising hysteria over the
contamination of the fish supply.  There was no doubt something
drastic had to be done to assure the  Japanese people that they
were not being poisoned.  Fish-dealers were having a hard time
convincing customers that their wares were not radioactive.  But
wary purchasers shied away.  750 tons of tuna were stored in the
warehouses in the great port of Misaki.

     The Misaki market was closed on March 19, precipitating a
panic among the fish dealers.  The hysteria spread to nearby
Yokohama and then to Tokyo itself.  The great Tokyo Central
Wholesale Market closed for the first time since the cholera
epidemic of 1935.  None of these measures worked well.  When it
became known that fish had been banned from the Emperor's diet,
people became even more worried.  Prices plummeted to still lower
depths and some fish dealers were forced into bankruptcy.

     Public resentment over the Bikini accident spread throughout
Japan and news papers ran editorials highly critical of the Unites
States.  They criticized Dr. Morton for failing to treat the Yaizu
fishermen (despite the illegally such a treatment by an American
doctor).  They expressed fear that the patients would be used as a
"guinea pigs" and they demanded reparation for the damages
incurred.  Ambassador John M. Allison sought to take some of the
sting out of the criticisms by issuing a press release on March 19,
in which he said theat he was "authorized to make clear that the
Unites States is prepared to take such steps as may be necessary to
insure fair and just compensation if the facts so warrant."      A
US congressman, Melvin Price from Illinois, commented that the
presence of the Japanese fishing boat so close to the blast
indicated that a Soviet submarine could have come even closer.  At
this point, Representative W. Sterling Cole, chairman of the Joint
Atomic Committee, was interpreted in the Japanese press as
suggesting that the Lucky Dragon may have been on a spying mission. 
This suggestion infuriated the Japanese.

        Meanwhile Mr. Merrill Eisenbud, director of the AEC's
Health and Safety Laboratory, had arrived at Tokyo's Haneda Airport
and been whisked away in an Embassy sedan before corespondents
could question him.  Eisenbud was making a hurried flight to Japan
in order to check on the levels of radioactivity and to see what
assistance his laboratory could render for the crewmen.  A short
time later he, an expert on fallout, flew to Yaizu and lugged an
armful of instruments aboard the Lucky Dragon.  He disdained
gloves, mask, or protective clothing and rather horrified some of
the Japanese scientists by his nonchalance.  However, at the
hospital he  was given a cool reception by Japanese doctors, who
made a point of emphasizing that he had neither a Ph.D. nor a M.D.
degree.  It was quite evidence that a distinct note of hostility
had arisen between the Americans and Japanese.  

     News of what had happened to the Lucky Dragon was played up on
the front pages of American newspapers on March 17.  But the
question of the radioactive tuna fish was subsequently given little
space in the American press, and the injuries to the fishermen were
mainly mentioned through comments by U.S. politicians.  The New
York Times ran photos of an injured crewman and printed a chart
showing that the Lucky Dragon had been well outside the danger zone
around the Eniwetok-Bikini Proving grounds.  But the reporting of
the incident in American newspapers gave no concept of its
importance to the Japanese.  President Eisenhower replied to a
question from a reporter of the Columbia Broadcasting system.  "It
was quite clear that this time something must have happened which
we had never experienced before, and must have surprised and
astonished the scientists.  And very properly, the United States
had to take precautions that had never occurred to them before." 

      After the President's press conference the Atomic Energy
Commission released a detailed statement which included: "The
opinion of the American Energy Commission scientific staff based on
long-term studies of fish in the presence of radioactivity is that
there is negligible hazard, if any, in the consumption of fish
caught in the Pacific Ocean outside the immediate test area
subsequent to tests....Any radioactivity collected in the test area
would become harmless within a few miles....and completely
undetectable within 500 miles or less...."

     In Japan, the American Ambassador, John M. Allison, issued a
similar statement. It evoked angry comment from leading Japanese
scientists.  One professor made a radio broadcast in which he
stated: "the radioactivity we have detected was certainly not
negligible."  The other professor snapped: " Let's send the highly
contaminated fish to Mr. Allison and have him eat it."

     The official AEC reassurance that fish could be eaten safety
did not stem the rising tide of fish contaminations in Japan, nor
did it restore confidence among buyers in fish markets.  On March
27 the Koei Maru ( Radiant Glory) put into the thriving port of
Mastic with thirty-seven tons of tuna which was found to be
radioactive above the level established by the Ministry of Health
and Welfare.  Japanese officials had issued a temporary " danger
level corresponding to 100 counts per minute for a Geiger counter
held four inches away from the fish.  So far as the Japanese people
were concerned, the numerical value of 100 was not too important. 
They looked upon the situation in that either the fish was
radioactive or it was non-radioactive.

     Shortly after the contamination of fish became news that
American dealers asked the Japanese to observe restrictions of a
rather technical nature, calling for the fish to be examined closer
than four inches and for detailed inspection around the gills. 
Apparently importers did not want every 100 counts per minute. 
This distressed the Japanese tuna men, who felt that Americans were
setting up a double standard.  On one hand Americans asserted that
there was no danger and strongly implied that Japanese were
unrealistic about radioactivity contamination of fish.  On the
other hand, they rejected even slightly contaminated tuna for their

     The US West Coats tuna canneries, most of which are
concentrated in California, were alerted  Records of the food and
Drug Administration show that two radioactive fish were picked up
at one cannery.  No details other than that the " radioactivity was
insignificant" are available, but it is known that secret meeting
took place between representatives of tuna industry, the Food and
Drug Administration, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the State
Department.  An acceptable level of radioactivity was agreed upon
at this meeting but the level was classified as " confidential" and
not released to the public.  
3.        Relevant Cases

    ARCTIC case
    CHERNOBY case
    BENIN case
    MURUROA case
    JAPANSEA case
    TEMELIN case
    JAPANPUL case

          Key words
     Nuclear Testing
     Environmental and Human Right Problem

4.        Draft author: Atsuko Toi (May 1996)

B.        Legal Cluster

5.        Discourse and Status: AGR and COMPlete

6.        Forum and Scope: Japan and US

7.        Decision Breadth: 2 (Japan and US)

     However, Bikini Radiation injuries are not only Japanese. 
This issue of nuclear testing is a global concern.

8.        Legal Standing: COMPENSATION

C.        Geographic Cluster

9.        Geographic Location

     a.   Continental Domain: Pacific
     b.   Geographic Site: West Pacific
     c.   Bikini

10.       Sub-national Factors: NO

11.       Type of habitat: OCEAN

D.        Trade Clusters

12.       Type of Measure: Regulatory Standard

13.       Direct v.s. Indirect: DIR

14.       Relation of Measure to Impact

     a.   Directly Related: Yes    Fish
     b.   Indirectly Related to Product: No
     c.   Not Related to Product: No
     d.   Related to Process: Yes     RADIOactive

15.       Trade Product Identification: MEAT (fish)

16.       Economic Data

     Affected by a decrease in domestic haul, the scale of supply-
demand of fish has continued to decrease.  However, the fish
markets still provide most of the protein for Japan's diet.  They
provide a daily supply of 18.4g animal protein per capita in 1991,
accounting for 40% of the total protein supply.  In those days of
the Lucky Dragon Incident, demand and supply of fish, selfish are
as fallows: (Unit: 1,000t)

                TABLE    (Demand and Supply of Fish)
                         Total Supply...5,903
                         Domestic Production... 5,803
                         Imports... 100
                         Total Demand... 5,903
                         Domestic Consumption...5,383             
                           For Food... 4,400
                           For Livestock Feed... 983              

17.       Degree of Competitive and Impact: HIGH 

     Many tuna from the Pacific were found to be radioactive by the
testing of American atomic bomb.  As noted in the description, this
caused Japanese people to stop buying and prices to drop
disastrously.  It resulted in a large loss of revenue and
employment for the industry.   

18.       Industry Sector: FOOD

19.       Exporter and Importer: Many and Japan

E.        Environmental Cluster

20.       Environmental Problem Type: Pollution Sea

     When the crew of the Daigo fukuryu maru, a tuna-fishing boat,
witnessed a gigantic fireball over the western horizon and heard
dull sounds about eight minutes later, their boat was located
approximately 190 kilometers (118 mi) east northeast of the
explosion site.  White dust began to fall with a light rain around
7:00 AM and continued until around 11:30 AM.  The shower was so
heavy at one point that the crewmen could not open their eyes  or
mouths; the dust left on the deck was thick enough to create their
footprints.  Two weeks later , they returned to their home port in
Japan and were eventually sent to a hospital and treated for
radiation injuries for about a year.  One of them died 206 days
after his exposure.  No mechanical or burn injuries were involved;
the injuries sustained were from radiation alone.   (American
authorities disputed the cause of this one death.)

      Exposure mode. 

     The fallout on the boat contained 26 nuclides.  The presence
of uranium 237 suggested that the bomb was of the type which used
natural uranium as its outer component.  The radiative intensity of
the fallout at 7:00 AM, 1 March, is estimated at 1.4Ci/g.  The
fishing-boat crew received external gamma ray irradiation, internal
irradiation from fallout intake, and bata ray irradiation from
fallout on naked skin.  External gamma ray irradiation is
considered to have  been the main cause of acute symptoms.  The
two-week doses of gamma ray varied but are estimated to have ranged
from 170 to 600 rads.  Radiochemical analysis of urine and external
measurement of thyroid gland radioactivity showed internal
irradiation.  However, there were no cases of long-term presence of
radioactive material in the men examined.  The degree of skin
injuries led to estimates that local skin exposure doses were
roughly 1,000 rads or higher.

     Clinical course.

    The initial general symptoms appearing in the crew included
fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and anorexia.  Conjunctivitis was
observed in all cases.  Leukopenia, thrombopenia, and moderate or
mild anemia also occurred.  The minimum counts of leukocytes were
all less than normal: 5 cases at a level of 3,000 per cubic
millimeter, 13 cases at a level of 2,000 per cubic millimeter, and
5 cases at a level of 1,000 per millimeter.  The minimum count of
blood platelet was at a level of 1,000 per cubic millimeter.  A few
cases showed mild hemorrhagic tendencies.  These findings
correlated with the condition of the bone marrow.  The affected
bone marrow ran a course from aplasia to hypoplasia to partial
recovery to normalization.  As the bone marrow recovered,
peripheral blood-cell counts approached normal levels.  A temporary
decease in the number of spermatozoa was found, but signs of
recovery appeared two years after exposure, and there was no
permanent exposure-related sterility.  

     The main site of injury was the exposed areas of the skin. 
Working clothes, gloves, and shoes played an unexpected role in
protecting the crew from bata ray exposure.  Skin injuries
developed in this sequence: erythema, edema, bulla, and erosion. 
Ulceration and recovered after a few months in most instances. 
Some individuals showed depigmentation, pigmentation,
telangiectasia, or atrophy of the skin without, however, signs of
carcinogenesis for many years.

     Thyroid nodules were observed in the major of the Marshall
Islanders who were 10 years or younger at the time of nuclear test. 
One of these cases died from acute myelogenous leukemia 18 years
after exposure.  

21.       Species Information

     Name of Species: Many ( including human beings, fish, etc)   
     Type: Many
     Diversity: Many

22.       Impact and Effect: HIGH and PRODuct

23.       Urgency and Lifetime: Low and 1000s of years

     They depends on a degree of the destructive power of nuclear
bomb and the distance from the testing place.

24.       Substitutes: LIKE

     As for fish, the industry could change the fishing-place to
safer areas, or turn to fish-farm in the safer water.

F.        Other Factors

25.       Culture: NO

26.       Human Right: YES

     Radioactive fallout inflicted radiation injuries on 23
Japanese fishermen ( One of them died 206 days after his exposure),
239 Marshall Islander (This is a  reported number, however; there
could be more on them), and 28 Americans, who were all at a great
distance from the test site. In addition, in Japan, as contaminated
fish was found, Japanese people were exposed to the menace of
secondary contamination by eating contaminated fish.  The fish
industry was tremendously damaged.  Thus , human-right must be
seemed as a factor in this case.

27.       Trans-Border: YES

     As mentioned above, this case of nuclear testing affected not
only 23 crew members of Daigo fukuryu maru, but also Marshall
Islanders, Americans and other Japanese people.

28.       Relevant Literature.

Lapp, Ralph E., "The Voyage of the Lucky Dragon", Haper & Brothers
Publishers, New   York, 1958.
Dibblin, Jane, " Day of Two Suns, US Nuclear Testing and the
Pacific Islanders", New      Amsterdam Book, New York, 1990.


1. Ralph E. Lapp, "The voyage of the Lucky Dragon," (Haper &
Brothers Publishers, 1958), pp.   126.
2. Ralph E. Lapp, "The voyage of the Lucky Dragon," (Haper &
Brothers Publishers, 1958), pp.   126.

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