7,000 Tochigi residents seek compensation over Fukushima nuclear disaster


Some 7,000 people living in Tochigi Prefecture sought compensation Monday worth ¥1.85 billion through an out-of-court settlement with Tepco over the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

In the first collective appeal by residents who have not been compensated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., 7,128 people from Tochigi, located some 100 km from the crippled plant, argue that they should be eligible for compensation even though they were not living in Fukushima at the time of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The residents, who were living at the time in Otawara, Nasushiobara, and Nasu are also demanding an apology and the establishment of a fund to pay for decontamination work and health checks, their lawyers said. The combined population of the two cities and town stands at around 218,000.

The appeal was filed Monday with the Nuclear Compensation Dispute Resolution Center under an alternative dispute resolution system that enables quicker settlements with the participation of a third party that has expertise.

Lead lawyer Koji Otani said it is “irrational” to treat his clients differently from the Fukushima residents who decided to evacuate on a voluntary basis and received compensation, as the same amount of radiation was detected in Tochigi.

“We want Tepco to take seriously the fact that over 7,000 people raised their voices,” Otani told a news conference at the Tochigi Prefectural Government office.

The residents are demanding sums ranging from ¥120,000 to ¥720,000 per person — equivalent to the amount awarded for voluntary evacuees in Fukushima — as compensation for mental suffering and extra living expenses caused by the nuclear disaster, according to the lawyers.

More than 30 percent of those seeking compensation were under 18 at the time of the Fukushima meltdowns, or were born afterward, they said.

“I let my (elementary school) child play in the garden without knowing radiation levels immediately after the accident,” said Mako Tezuka, 45, one of the residents who filed the appeal.

“Four years later, I still haven’t received any explanation or apology from Tepco and I’m only left with worries about the future and health of my child,” she said.