April 17, 2022
Residents who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture to Saitama and other prefectures following the March 2011 accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant have filed a lawsuit against the government and TEPCO, claiming a total of 100 million yen in damages. On April 20, the Saitama District Court will hand down a verdict in a class action lawsuit seeking a total of 100 million yen in damages from the government and TEPCO. The lawsuit was filed in March 2002, seeking compensation for the mental anguish of being separated from their familiar land, as well as compensation for their homes and land lost in the accident. After three additional lawsuits, the number of plaintiffs has grown to 96. How has the nuclear accident changed their daily lives? Before the verdict, we asked two of the plaintiffs about their thoughts.
Yoshinobu Segawa, 60, an art teacher at a junior high school in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, evacuated his wife and children to Saitama City in June 2012. He has been leading a double life, visiting his wife and children on weekends. The physical, mental, and financial burdens are heavy, but he has no plans for his family to return to Fukushima because he cannot shake off his anxiety about the ongoing decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. He complains, “I feel that the public is losing interest in the nuclear accident, but it has not yet been resolved at all.”
Although no evacuation order was issued for Koriyama City after the nuclear accident in March 2011, he decided to voluntarily evacuate his wife and children for fear of exposure to radiation, as there were hot spots in the city with locally high radiation levels. He decided to evacuate to Saitama City, where his wife’s (47) friend lives nearby. Currently, his wife and four sons in elementary and junior high school are living in a national public employee housing complex.
After work on Friday night, he drives to Saitama City, spends time with his family, does his daily chores, and returns to Koriyama City on Sunday night. For Segawa, who suffers from heart disease, the burden of traveling three hours each way every week is not small.
Ten years have passed since he began his double life, and his savings have visibly dwindled. Although she received some money from her retirement in April of this year, she says, “I am not sure how much I can spare for my children’s future school expenses. In addition, since the spread of the new coronavirus, he has had fewer opportunities to see his family, and his wife, who has a designated intractable disease of the nervous system, has been burdened with housework and childcare.
Recently, when he talks to his colleagues about his family, they are sometimes surprised to hear that he is still evacuating, and even within Fukushima Prefecture, “I feel that the nuclear accident is fading fast. According to TEPCO’s roadmap, the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will be completed in 41 to 51 years. In February of last year and March of this year, Fukushima Prefecture was hit by earthquakes measuring 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, and Segawa said, “It is scary to have a dangerous nuclear reactor on the verge of collapse so close to the plant. Segawa said, “I am afraid that a dangerous nuclear reactor that is on the verge of breaking down is nearby.” He plans to continue the voluntary evacuation of his family, saying, “A similar radiation accident may occur again.
In the trial, the plaintiffs pointed out that the government had failed to regulate nuclear power plants before the accident, and that TEPCO had failed to take countermeasures against a serious accident that could have caused core damage. Mr. Segawa joined the case in an additional lawsuit filed in August 2003. He wanted to make the case an opportunity to examine what happened during the nuclear accident and what should have been done to prevent it, so that he would not be embarrassed when his children ask him in the future, “What did your father do when the nuclear accident happened?
However, he is distrustful of the way the government and TEPCO handled the case in court. I feel that both the government and TEPCO dodged our questions and failed to provide us with any answers. I don’t think they are thinking about our lives.
Although it was not a life they wanted to lead, their sons are now blessed with many friends. He is waiting for the verdict, hoping that at least the financial burden will be lightened. “I hope that my wife and son will be able to live in the city until my fourth son (7 years old), who was born in Saitama City, graduates from high school, even if it is only modestly,” he said. (Yusuke Sugihara)
April 17, 2022