Business / Corporate

'Shocked' Fukushima evacuees say Tepco ruling fails to fairly compensate them for suffering

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

A Tokyo court on Wednesday ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to pay a total of ¥21.34 million in damages to a group of evacuees from the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

But the ruling by the Tokyo District Court, which was the 11th such decision against Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., came as a shock to the evacuees, who claim the court has neglected their suffering.

The lawsuit was filed in March 2012 by 42 former residents of Iitate, a village in Fukushima Prefecture, who claim their lives were affected by the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant disaster in 2011. They were forced to evacuate from the prefecture due to evacuation orders that were only lifted later, in March 2017. They had sought a combined ¥1.68 billion from the utility for their psychological suffering.

Presiding Judge Tetsuro Nakayoshi awarded compensation to 13 of the 42 plaintiffs whose damages were deemed more severe. The plaintiffs in general have been already compensated by the nuclear plant operator and had already found new homes, the court concluded. Only one pair was awarded the highest amount, of more than ¥3 million in damages, due to illness and required nursing care.

In a written statement, Tepco offered a “sincere apology” to the residents of Fukushima Prefecture and others “for causing so much trouble,” and said they would examine the court’s decision and would consider ways to respond to it.

Noboru Tanaka, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, explained that the Iitate residents in the lawsuit had been receiving settlement compensation worth ¥100,000 per month for the past 7 years from Tepco in an alternative dispute resolution. But the amount was not enough to compensate their losses and inconveniences caused in the process of evacuation, he said, adding that compensation for a car accident victim would usually be three times that. He said the ruling was deplorable given that the plaintiffs remain unable to restore their lives.

“I’m shocked — even if we wanted to go back home, we can’t, but the court won’t understand it,” said Yasuo Suzuki, 65, one of the eight plaintiffs who appeared in court on Wednesday. He is still sheltered in an evacuation center in Tokyo. “I was hoping this ruling would help me pick up my life,” he said, “but it has left me puzzled.”

According to Japan’s Reconstruction Agency, nearly 52,000 people remained displaced due to the 2011 disasters.