TEPCO ordered to pay 1.1 billion yen to evacuees in Fukushima
Junichiro Hironaka, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, right, speaks at a news conference on Feb. 7 after the Tokyo District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay 3.3 million yen in damages to each plaintiff in a Fukushima nuclear disaster compensation lawsuit.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been ordered to pay 3.3 million yen ($30,000) each to 318 people who were forced to flee their hometown in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear disaster.
However, the plaintiffs are unhappy as they sought 10 times that amount.
“We are stripped of our hometown, livelihood and life, and Odaka will not return to what it used to be,” 76-year-old Isao Enei of Minami-Soma said at a news conference after the Feb. 7 verdict at Tokyo District Court. “I am sorry that the judges did not visit and see the situation of Odaka for themselves.”
The plaintiffs are now considering appealing as they had initially sought 33 million yen each in additional damages in the lawsuit.
“It is significant in a way in recognizing ‘damages for the loss of a hometown,’” said Junichiro Hironaka, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer. “But the amount of compensation ordered does not correspond to the actual damages they suffered.”
In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Yuko Mizuno said that the plaintiffs’ “right to a stable life in a place that was the foundation of their livelihood had been breached.”
TEPCO said it will respond to the court decision after studying it in detail.
The plaintiffs lived in Minami-Soma’s Odaka district before the triple meltdown at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.
Odaka was located within the 20-kilometer no-entry zone surrounding the plant from which residents were forced to evacuate.
The plaintiffs contended that TEPCO was liable for causing psychological damage as they were displaced and lost their hometown.
The total that TEPCO must pay to the 318 plaintiffs falls a fraction short of 1.1 billion yen, but the court dismissed claims by three plaintiffs on the grounds that they lived overseas at the time of the accident or for other reasons.
The verdict was the fourth that has been handed down in regard to about 30 similar lawsuits that have been brought across the nation.
In the three other suits, the plaintiffs claimed in the district courts that the government and TEPCO had been negligent, but in the latest case the court was only concerned with the amount of compensation.
The plaintiffs argued for compensation for damages stemming from the evacuation, as well as compensation for a loss of various general benefits that they would have enjoyed if they had continued to reside in their hometown.
The power company rejected the plaintiffs’ claim for additional compensation, citing the payment already made of 8.5 million yen per victim of the nuclear disaster in the district based on the government’s “interim guidelines” for compensation.
It insisted that the plaintiffs’ claim that “Odaka has been lost forever” was not proven.
The evacuation order was lifted for most of the district in July 2016.
But the court stated that even after it became possible for residents to return (to Odaka), it “constitutes a serious violation of the plaintiffs’ life if the foundations of their livelihood were considerably changed.”
TEPCO argued that the government’s interim compensation guidelines were reasonable.
But the court rejected it, saying the district court will not be bound by the government’s guidelines.
Rulings for similar lawsuits are expected in March at the Kyoto District Court and Tokyo District Court.
Fukushima operator Tepco ordered to pay US$10 million in new damages
A Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) employee working near the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant on Jan 31, 2018
TOKYO (AFP) – A Tokyo court has ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to pay US$10 million (S$13.3 million) in fresh damages to residents who fled their homes after the disaster, the plaintiffs’ attorney said Thursday (Feb 8).
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) was instructed to pay a total of 1.1 billion yen (S$13.3 million) to 318 former residents of the Odaka district in Fukushima, around 20 kilometres from the plant.
The sum is a tenth of what the plaintiffs had demanded, citing the financial hardship and psychological impact they suffered after the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima that was triggered by a deadly earthquake and tsunami.
Tepco had already agreed to pay each of the plaintiffs 8.5 million yen, but the ruling requires it to pay an additional 3.3 million yen to each of those affected, according to Isamu Oki, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
Residents are technically free to return to Odaka, which the government has certified as decontaminated, but only a few dozen have gone home because of financial and health concerns, Oki told AFP.
“Especially those with small children are worried… while elderly people are unable to come back without any supporting family,” he added.
Junichiro Hironaka, who heads the legal team representing the residents, said Wednesday that the court’s decision showed it recognised “compensation for a lost hometown”.
But he said the additional damages awarded by the court were insufficient, suggesting the plaintiffs might appeal.
Tepco said it was reviewing the ruling before deciding how it would proceed.
Around 12,000 people who fled their homes for fear of radiation have filed dozens of lawsuits against the government and Tepco.
In March 2017, a court in the eastern city of Maebashi ruled that both the government and Tepco were responsible.
A massive undersea earthquake on March 11, 2011 sent a tsunami barrelling into Japan’s northeast coast, leaving more than 18,000 people dead or missing and sparking the Fukushima crisis, the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
In June 2017, three former Tepco executives went on trial, the only people ever to face a criminal court in connection with the disaster. The hearing is continuing.