Asahi Shimbun, 27 June 2014.
TEPCO ‘breaks vow,’ refuses more compensation for Fukushima nuclear victims
The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has rejected requests for additional compensation from residents forced to evacuate because of the nuclear disaster, defying a government mediation center, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.
Prompted by a request from 15,000 residents of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, or more than 70 percent of the town’s population, the central government’s nuclear damage claim dispute resolution center in March issued a proposed settlement calling for Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay an additional 50,000 yen ($492) per month to each town evacuee.
In the proposed settlement, accepted by the town residents, the mediation center also asked the utility to pay an additional 30,000 yen per month to those aged 75 or older.
But TEPCO rejected the proposal for an across-the-board 50,000-yen payment and said it would offer an additional 20,000 yen a month only to residents 75 years or older who have suffered injuries or illnesses, in letters sent to the town and the dispute resolution center on June 25.
“Its response substantively represents the absolute refusal of the proposal,” Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba commented the following day. “It does not understand the pain of victims at all.”
Because TEPCO has said it would honor compromise settlements proposed by the mediation center, Baba criticized the plant operator for “breaking its vow.”
In March 2012, a year after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the central government’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation released guidelines on compensation for the emotional distress of nuclear victims.
According to the guidelines, TEPCO has to pay monthly compensation of 100,000 yen per person to 80,000 residents of mandatory evacuation zones around the nuclear plant.
The company has been complying with the recommendations.
“(The requests from Namie residents) deviate from the guidelines and can undermine a sense of fairness,” Yuji Masuda, a TEPCO managing executive officer, explained at a shareholders’ meeting on June 26.
TEPCO also took issue with the dispute resolution center’s argument that the utility should provide additional compensation because evacuees “are currently living in an extremely unstable condition where they cannot see any future prospects.”
In the letters sent to the town and the center, the utility said the status of those evacuees was already taken into account when the compensation guidelines were compiled.
The Namie residents on June 26 asked the dispute resolution center to persuade TEPCO to pay the proposed extras. The center plans to discuss the issue with the company again, and if TEPCO refuses to accept the proposal, the evacuees will possibly sue the utility for additional compensation.
A local government group, consisting of eight municipalities in the prefecture’s Futaba county, including Namie, has also demanded that TEPCO and the central government make changes to the guidelines and pay additional compensation to all their residents.
(This article was compiled from reports by Senior Staff Writer Noriyoshi Otsuki, Yu Kotsubo and Mana Nagano.)
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN