Tepco announces that it has received the 65th financial installment from the government support structure, which is advancing money for compensation: 164.8 billion yen (1,46 billion dollars).
This is a much higher amount than the last time and this money is loaned without interest.
Tepco has already received a total of 7,358.5 billion yen (67, 16 billion dollars at current prices) and this will not be enough.
Of the unknown number of children who have been bullied for being from Fukushima Prefecture, where a nuclear disaster is still ongoing at a power station six years since its outbreak, one boy who evacuated to Yokohama was bullied and extorted by his classmates of 1.5 million yen in total.
Now in his first year of junior high school, the boy wrote when he was in sixth grade, “My classmates said, ‘You get compensation, right?’ That annoyed me, but I was frustrated with myself for not standing up against them.”
Ironically, news reports say that because the family voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture, they are not eligible for the high levels of compensation from the operator of the stricken nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), that some victims are entitled to receive.
Those who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture due to the nuclear crisis can be largely categorized into two groups. The first are those who were forced to leave their homes under evacuation orders from the central government, because they lived in areas where annual cumulative radiation levels exceeded 20 millisieverts, or otherwise faced extenuating circumstances as determined by the state. Such people receive a certain lump sum from TEPCO as compensation.
The second group comprises people who lived in areas with radiation levels that did not prompt government evacuation orders, but who evacuated voluntarily out of concern for the health of themselves and their children. As a general rule, these people are not eligible for compensation from TEPCO.
In the case of forced evacuations, TEPCO conducts individual interviews with evacuees to assess the value of their property and homes. But this is strictly to compensate for the assets that people have lost.
What has often attracted attention but remains commonly misunderstood, is the monthly 100,000 yen per person that evacuees are said to be receiving as compensation for emotional suffering. Those who evacuated without orders to do so from the government are not eligible for this, either.
Meanwhile, the provision of compensation for emotional suffering to state-ordered evacuees whose homes are in areas where evacuation orders are set to be lifted will be stopped in March 2018. Whether or not such evacuees will return to their homes in Fukushima Prefecture once the no-go orders are lifted, they face the harsh reality that they will be cut off from government assistance. The government is rushing to rebuild infrastructure, and appeal to the world that they are lifting evacuation orders. But whether to return or to relocate is a difficult decision, especially for families with children.
People who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture have not only been exposed to radiation, but to prejudice and misunderstanding regarding compensation that they may or may not have received.
The false rumor that compensation recipients are enjoying the high life from compensation payments has spread. We can’t deny that some probably indulged in the momentary influx of money and bought property or a fancy car. But because of that, the internet has been teeming with rumors that compensation recipients are tax thieves or calls for them to go back where they came from. And there’s no doubt that such a backdrop of online defamation and scandalmongering emboldened the children who bullied the boy in Yokohama.
The truth is, the family of the boy in Yokohama had evacuated Fukushima Prefecture voluntarily. They received a little over 1 million yen from TEPCO, but the parents said in an interview with an NHK new program, Close Up Gendai, that the money was put toward rebuilding their lives. Voluntary evacuees are exempt from paying rent due to the Disaster Relief Act, but many must restart new lives amid unstable finances.
The abovementioned boy moved to Yokohama with his family when he was in second grade. Shortly thereafter, classmates called him by his name, with the word for “germs” added on to the end. He soon found himself the victim of physical abuse such as hitting and kicking, and once he reached fifth grade, classmates demanded he give them money.
“I was so scared I didn’t know what to do,” the boy wrote. He stole from his parents and gave away a total of 1.5 million yen.
His parents, and other parents of children at the school who realized that something was going on, alerted the school. The school conducted an investigation, but took the bullies’ claims that the boy had given them money willingly at face value, and did nothing to remedy the situation for two years.
I, too, only learned the truth about the case just recently, but I believe the school’s misguided judgment was likely based on ignorance and prejudice toward compensation given to Fukushima Prefecture evacuees.
The boy’s mother had been traveling back and forth between Yokohama and Fukushima. He knew how much his parents were struggling, so he remained silent about the bullying.
What moved the case into a new direction were notes the victim had written in the summer of sixth grade. A message calling on bullying victims not to kill themselves also written by the now first-year junior high school student who attends an alternative school, was also released to the public.
Compensation is given to some victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But there is still too little compassion toward and understanding of the various misunderstandings, discrimination and divisions that disaster victims face.
Voluntary evacuees granted only small awards in Fukushima nuke disaster damage case
While the March 17 Maebashi District Court ruling acknowledged that both the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are liable for the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, it dealt a harsh blow to those who voluntarily evacuated their Fukushima Prefecture homes in the wake of the meltdowns.
The court awarded a total of 38.55 million yen in damages to 62 of the 137 plaintiffs who fled from Fukushima Prefecture to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere — about one-fortieth of the complainants’ total compensation demand of approximately 1.5 billion yen. This was because the court acknowledged to some extent the rationale behind the government-set “interim guidelines” for TEPCO’s compensation payment standards. The court rejected claims made by over half of the plaintiffs, saying that the amount of compensation they are entitled to does not exceed that which has already been paid by TEPCO.
The interim guidelines were set by the education ministry’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation in August 2011 to ensure swift compensation to cover damages common to many residents in the nuclear disaster-hit areas. Based on the guidelines, TEPCO set up standards for compensation payments, such as a monthly payment of 100,000 yen per person for those from evacuation zones and, as a rule, one-off payments of 80,000 yen for each voluntary evacuee. Voluntary evacuees in nuclear disaster class-action suits across the country are arguing that 80,000 yen is too small an amount, considering that leaving Fukushima Prefecture was a reasonable decision.
Some experts have criticized the district court decision, saying that it only confirmed the legitimacy of the interim guidelines. At the same time, the ruling was based on the court’s own calculation for deciding the compensation amount for each plaintiff, which set five “emotional distress” categories to be considered including the feeling of losing one’s hometown.
Nevertheless, the compensation amounts in the ruling differed greatly between the plaintiffs from evacuation zones and voluntary evacuees. Nineteen plaintiffs who used to live in areas under evacuation orders were awarded compensation payments of between 750,000 yen and 3.5 million yen each, while 43 voluntary evacuees were granted awards of between 70,000 yen and 730,000 yen.
One of the plaintiffs who had voluntarily left the city of Iwaki was awarded about 200,000 yen in damages for the 10-day period right after the March 2011 meltdowns. However, the ruling denied that the same woman’s decision to flee Fukushima Prefecture again two months after the meltdowns was rational, saying that high radiation doses were not detected in Iwaki and no other particularly concerning circumstances were present.
Attorney Tsutomu Yonekura of the national liaison association of lawyers representing Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees said of the Maebashi District Court ruling, “The amount of compensation provided for in the ruling remains at the same level as that set in the interim guidelines, even though the court claimed to have independently calculated the compensation payments. It’s not enough as judicial redress.”
Fukushima nuke disaster evacuees disappointed by court’s compensation award
Fukushima Prefecture evacuees in a class action suit over the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster were disappointed by the 38.55 million yen in total compensation awarded on March 17 by the Maebashi District Court, as the amount was just one-fortieth what they had been seeking.
“I was expecting to hear a ruling that would support us more,” one of the plaintiffs said after the verdict, which came 3 1/2 years after they filed the suit and six years after the disaster’s onset.
“We have made the court recognize the responsibility of the central government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). I am honestly happy about that,” plaintiff Sugie Tanji, 60, said to a gathering following the ruling. However, she continued, “The past six years was filled with many hardships. I wonder if I can convince myself to accept the ruling…”
Tanji was a resident of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture. Her 63-year-old husband Mikio ran a repair business, but orders plunged following the No. 1 plant meltdowns. Four months later, the couple voluntarily evacuated to Gunma Prefecture.
Although Tanji felt guilty for leaving fellow residents behind, she took part in anti-nuclear power rallies and demonstrations in Gunma Prefecture and joined the class action suit, believing that there must never be another nuclear disaster.
Of the 137 plaintiffs from 45 households, representatives of almost all the households appeared in court, testifying to the agony of living as evacuees and expressing their anger toward TEPCO and the central government. However, only a few of them have made their names public out of concern for possible discrimination against their children and negative effects on their jobs. Tanji herself recalls being told, “You can get money if you go to court, can’t you?”
Under government guidelines, those who evacuated voluntarily are entitled to only 80,000 yen in consolation money from TEPCO, including living expenses. The plaintiffs thought the amount was far too small considering the pain of losing their hometowns. However, only 62 of the 137 plaintiffs were awarded compensation.
“I was expecting a warmer ruling,” said a woman in her 50s who sat in on the March 17 hearing clad in mourning attire. She was working part-time for a company in Iwaki, but was fired after the nuclear disaster impacted the firm’s business performance.
This and radiation exposure fears prompted her and her husband to evacuate to Gunma Prefecture two months later. Her husband, however, developed a malignant brain tumor the following year, after the couple settled into an apartment that the Gunma Prefectural Government had rented for evacuees. Her husband died in the fall of 2014 at age 52.
The woman says she still doesn’t feel like she can start working and subsists on her savings and survivor’s pension. At the end of March, the Fukushima Prefectural Government is set to terminate its housing subsidies for voluntary evacuees. For her, the compensation awarded by the Maebashi District Court was “unimaginably low.”
“I can’t report the ruling to my husband,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
An abandoned home in Futaba, Japan, one of the towns around the Fukushima plant. Nearly 160,000 people evacuated the area after the disaster in 2011.
TOKYO — The Japanese government and the electric utility that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were negligent in not preventing the meltdowns in 2011 that forced thousands of people to flee the area, a district court in eastern Japan ruled on Friday.
It was the first time that a court determined that both the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, and the government bore responsibility for the nuclear disaster that followed a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The decision could influence dozens of similar lawsuits filed by close to 12,000 evacuated residents now living across the country.
According to Japanese news reports of the ruling by the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture, the court said that the disaster, considered the worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986, was “predictable” and that it was “possible to prevent the accident.”
The court ordered the government and Tepco to pay damages totaling 38 million yen, or about $335,000, to 62 residents who were evacuated from the towns around the Fukushima plant and who relocated to Gunma. Each was awarded a different amount, but the total worked out to an average of $5,400 a person.
In their lawsuit, 137 former residents had sued for damages of ¥11 million, about $97,000, per person, and the court awarded damages to half the plaintiffs. About half of them had left on government evacuation orders while the other half had decided to leave on their own. Each case was evaluated individually.
The court weighed whether Tepco and the government had paid adequate damages to the nearly 160,000 people who evacuated from the towns around Fukushima. About 90,000 people have returned or settled in other places, and Tepco has already paid about ¥7 trillion in compensation.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that the central government and Tepco should have foreseen the possibility of a tsunami of the magnitude that hit the plant and that they should have done more to protect the plant.
The March 11, 2011, meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, which is on the eastern coast of Japan, occurred when 32-foot waves breached the power station’s protective sea walls, flooding buildings and destroying diesel-powered electricity generators that were designed to keep critical systems functioning in a blackout.
Tepco did not deny responsibility in a statement on Friday.
“We again apologize from the bottom of our hearts for giving great troubles and concerns to the residents of Fukushima and other people in society by causing the accident of the nuclear power station of our company,” Isao Ito, a spokesman, said. “Regarding today’s judgment given at the Maebashi local court today, we would like to consider how to respond to this after examining the content of the judgment.”
Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet minister to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told reporters that the government had yet to see the details of the ruling.
“The concerned ministries and agencies are going to thoroughly examine the content of the judgment and discuss how we will respond to it,” Mr. Suga said.
Analysts said the case appeared to set an important precedent.
“Tepco’s argument all along has basically been that everything it did before the accident had been approved by the government, while the government has claimed that Tepco failed to follow guidance,” said Azby Brown, director of the Future Design Institute at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and a volunteer researcher with Safecast, an independent radiation-monitoring group.
“This suit seems to have concluded that the evidence shows they share culpability,” he said. “I expect the government and Tepco to appeal, and for this to drag on for years.”
Izutaro Managi, a lawyer representing another class-action lawsuit against the government and Tepco, said that the government had failed in its oversight responsibilities. He said the damages were “not big enough.”
Representatives of groups that have sued the government and Tepco for negligence said they were more interested in the principle of the case than the amount of compensation awarded.
“The money is not a problem,” said Koichi Muramatsu, 66, a former resident of Soma City in Fukushima and the secretary of a victims group representing 4,200 plaintiffs in the suit being handled by Mr. Managi. “Even if it’s ¥1,000 or ¥2,000, it’s fine. We just want the government to admit their responsibility. Our ultimate goal is to make the government admit their responsibility and remind them not to repeat the same accident.”
In a statement, Katsumasa Suzuki, the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling significant because it “legally reconfirmed that government regulation was inappropriate.”
But he said he was disappointed by the low total of the damages.
“It is largely questionable whether the mental distress the plaintiffs faced was adequately evaluated,” he said.
Court: State and TEPCO must compensate
A court in Japan has ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay damages to evacuees of the 2011 nuclear accident.
The ruling is the first among similar suits filed across the country to order compensation.
137 evacuees mainly living in Gunma Prefecture northwest of Tokyo, filed the suit. They were seeking damages for emotional distress suffered after losing their livelihoods.
Court decision expected in Fukushima damages suit
A district court in eastern Japan will announce its decision Friday on a damages lawsuit filed by evacuees of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company.
137 people, mainly evacuees living in Gunma Prefecture, filed the suit with the Maebashi District Court, seeking compensation worth about 13 million dollars. The ruling will be the first damages suit of its kind in Japan.
The plaintiffs include those who fled evacuation zones and other parts of Fukushima Prefecture after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They say they suffered emotional distress after losing their livelihoods. They are seeking about 97,000 dollars each.
The points of contention include whether the Japanese government and plant operator TEPCO could have foreseen the major tsunami and prevented the damage, as well as whether the compensation TEPCO is paying evacuees is appropriate.
The plaintiffs claim the tsunami was predictable, citing a 2002 prediction of a massive earthquake by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion.
But the government and TEPCO say many researchers voiced differing views, and an installation of tide embankments based on the prediction would not have prevented the damage.
The plaintiffs say the compensation they received is insufficient. The government and TEPCO say it is appropriate.
More than 12,000 people have filed similar suits in 18 prefectures.
The operator of the crippled nuclear complex in Fukushima Prefecture has only paid 6 percent of the compensation sought by municipalities in connection with the 2011 nuclear crisis, according to a recent prefectural tally.
The delay in payments to the 12 municipalities, designated by the government as evacuation zones, highlights the continuing challenge to their reconstruction efforts six years after the nuclear disaster, triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.
The tally found that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. had by the end of 2016 paid around 2.6 billion yen ($22.5 million) of the 43.3 billion yen demanded by the 12 local governments.