SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court says members of the U.S. Navy can pursue their lawsuit in a U.S. court alleging radiation exposure from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Thursday that the sailors for now don't have to make their legal claims in Japan.

Their lawsuit accuses Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Japanese government of conspiring to keep secret the extent of the radiation leak following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands of people.

The plaintiffs arrived off the coast of Fukushima aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and other vessels to provide humanitarian aid a day after the quake.

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan conduct a countermeasure wash down on the flight deck on March 23, 2011. Sailors scrubbed the external surfaces on the flight deck and island superstructure to remove potential radiation contamination. Ronald Reagan is operating off the coast of Japan providing humanitarian assistance as directed in support of Operation Tomodachi.

Photo Credit: Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch/Navy

They filed their lawsuit in 2012 in federal court in San Diego.

An email to an attorney for Tokyo Electric was not immediately returned.

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