Tepco ordered to pay over suicide linked to nuclear evacuation


Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Tuesday was again held responsible for a suicide linked to the 2011 nuclear crisis and ordered to pay damages.

The Fukushima District Court ordered Tepco to pay ¥27 million to the family of 67-year-old Kiichi Isozaki, who committed suicide in July 2011 after being forced out of his home near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and fell into depression.

It is the second time that a court has determined there was a link between the nuclear disaster and a suicide, and ordered the utility to pay damages.

In the latest ruling, presiding Judge Naoyuki Shiomi said the severe experiences Isozaki had gone through made him depressed and led to his suicide. But Shiomi said the disaster had a “60 percent” impact on the man’s decision to take his own life, given that he had diabetes, which may also have played a role.

Isozaki’s wife, Eiko, 66, and two other relatives had sought ¥87 million.

“The ruling aside, I really want Tepco to apologize,” Eiko Isozaki said after the decision.

Tepco issued a statement saying it will “thoroughly examine the ruling and handle the case sincerely.”

According to the lawsuit, Isozaki started having trouble sleeping and lost his appetite after he was evacuated from his home in the town of Namie to a high school in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture. Isozaki and his family later moved to an apartment in another city, but his condition did not improve.

At dawn on July 23, 2011, Isozaki left his apartment and was found dead near a dam the following day, according to the lawsuit. He had presumably thrown himself off a bridge.

The plaintiffs argued that depression had prompted him to commit suicide and he would be “living happily had the nuclear accident not occurred.”

Tepco argued that the court should consider other factors that may have contributed to his mental state.

Last August, the same district court ordered the utility to pay ¥49 million in damages to the family of a 58-year-old woman who burned herself to death after she was forced to evacuate from her home in a Fukushima town contaminated by the nuclear disaster.

Although more than four years have passed since the powerful earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, triggered the country’s worst nuclear crisis, suicides linked to the event continue as more than 100,000 people remain evacuated in and around Fukushima.

Sixty-nine suicides in Fukushima Prefecture committed by the end of May have been deemed linked to the earthquake-tsunami or nuclear disasters, according to the Cabinet Office.

  • Richard Solomon

    While it is tragic that this man and others have committed suicide in reaction to the ‘triple disaster,’ it is heartening to see that a Court is holding TEPCO accountable for two such deaths. I hope other people whose loved ones have killed themselves will also seek damages from TEPCO. The fact that at least 69 such deaths have occurred should quell those who claim that no one has died because of the events at Fukushima. Unless/until more support is provided to the 100,000 people that are still displaced more suicides will take place.

    Finally, I would question the number of 69 that has been arrived at. Some mother, outside agency that is not affiliated with the government should be called in to evaluate this further. Any government agency has a vested interest in under-reporting these things.

    • Starviking

      How about suing the government for unnecessary evacuations? The suicides reported so far are of older people who would be at low risk of suffering any radiation-related conditions.

  • Ahojanen

    An irony is that no single person has died of (widely expected) radiation effect stemming from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown while quite a lot have passed away or killed themselves due to forced relocation and distress for fear of radiation. We need to review the priority of nuclear policy and crisis management.