Evacuee suits target Tepco, government

Refugees from Fukushima fed up with delayed compensation

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Fukushima residents forced out of their homes by the nuclear crisis plan to file group damages suits against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. on March 11, the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, their lawyers said Friday.

Around 10 households now living in Chiba Prefecture and about 10 families taking refuge in Tokyo are expected to file the suits in the Chiba and Tokyo district courts.

The lawyers said they believe these will be the first lawsuits targeting the central government for damages caused by the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Although the lawyers in Tokyo and Chiba haven’t finalized the size of damages each plaintiff will seek, including compensation for mental duress, the total for some of the households could reach ¥100 million, said Masatada Akimoto, one of the attorneys for the Chiba group.

Meanwhile another group of Fukushima people now residing in Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures are preparing to file group damage suits against the government and Tepco on March 11. That suit will be filed with the Fukushima District Court, lawyers in the city of Fukushima said Friday.

They said they will seek ¥50,000 for each plaintiff for every month they have been displaced. They also plan to demand that radiation levels in their hometowns be reduced to their precrisis levels. The number of plaintiffs is expected to be around 350.

“The government promoted nuclear power plants prioritizing the economy over safety. . . . We believe it is time to demand that Tepco and the government take responsibility (for the nuclear disaster),” Akimoto told The Japan Times.

“People who evacuated from Fukushima still have no idea about their future. Their frustration has surpassed the breaking point,” he said.

According to Akimoto, Tepco has yet to reach damages settlements with many people who fled from areas of Fukushima that were not designated for evacuation.

“As people begin to realize that Tepco is not willing to do anything (for them), some people have started to think that they need to stand up and do something about it rather than just wait,” Akimoto said.

Although the number of plaintiffs is small at present, he believes similar lawsuits will follow this year, considering the thousands of people living in similar straits across Japan.

As of Jan. 17, a total of 57,377 evacuees from Fukushima were living outside the prefecture. Among them, 7,458 are in Tokyo, the metropolitan government said.

Information from Kyodo added

Decommissioning panel

Kyodo

A panel will be formed to oversee the 40-year decommissioning of reactors 1 to 4 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 power plant, the government said Friday.

The panel will comprise pertinent ministries, Tepco and nuclear power plant manufacturers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to accelerate the decommissioning process, which will involve developing new technology to remove the melted fuel puddled at the bottoms of three of the reactors.

The government and Tepco have held meetings to work on the issue at irregular intervals, but government officials said the new panel will meet regularly and not only decide the schedule for the decommissioning but also confirm its progress.

The panel will be chaired by the trade minister and will include top officials from Tepco, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., which were involved in building and designing the six-reactor complex. The first meeting is expected later this month.

The Fukushima crisis was triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that wiped out its backup generators and cut off all power. Reactors 1 to 3 suffered core meltdowns.