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Gov’t compensation for nuclear disaster must respect range of choices (Maincihi)

fukushimafadfd14f14c8fcb4f640f209e572136cThe science ministry’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation has drawn up new guidelines on compensation payments for Fukushima Prefecture residents affected by the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

Total compensation for the emotional suffering of residents whose homes are in areas where they are unlikely to be able to return comes out to 14.5 million yen per person, and any remaining amounts will be paid in lump sums.

To those who have bought homes in their new communities at prices exceeding the compensation amounts for their land and homes in the disaster zones, the government will pay an additional set amount based on the difference.

The government on Dec. 20 announced its plan to speed up Fukushima’s recovery, revealing that it is backing down from its original plan to eventually return all prefectural residents to their communities of residence at the time of the nuclear disaster’s onset.

The lump-sum payments and residential compensation incorporated into the reconciliation committee’s guidelines aim to provide financial support to those whose homes are in areas that are still highly contaminated to rebuild their lives elsewhere.

The government must promptly attend to specific measures for a wide-range of issues involving people who have decided to give up on returning to their hometowns, including housing, employment and health care. As for the towns of Okuma and Futaba, where at least 90 percent of the population are from areas that are expected to remain off limits, the central and Fukushima prefectural governments must hold serious deliberations with local communities.

How can the government offer recompense for people who have lost not only their hometowns, but the communities and ties they spent years building? It’s a difficult question because we have not confronted anything like this before.

Compensation for emotional suffering comes out to a total of 58 million yen for a family of four. As was suggested during talks by the dispute reconciliation committee, however, much of that money is likely to be allotted to expenses related to evacuation and other living expenses. Many have fallen ill from the stress of evacuation, and it has not been rare for people to go back and forth between two homes, or to move multiple times. The “damage” suffered by people varies widely.

The reconciliation committee’s guidelines are, in the end, guidelines. Generally, a settlement between residents and Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) would be held at the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center based on the guidelines. The Center and TEPCO should aim to carefully consider the residents’ specific cases, and if need be, provide compensation amounts that exceed those in the guidelines. If the involved parties still fail to reach a settlement, the case must be brought to the courts so that victims can receive compensation appropriate to their circumstances.

Attention must also be paid to those who live outside the off-limits areas as well. The reconciliation committee decided that it would cut off 100,000-yen monthly compensation payments to residents a year after an area’s evacuation zone status is lifted. But how will those who continue to live in areas where they’ve evacuated to, without returning to their homes in Fukushima, continue to live?

The lifting of an evacuation order does not necessarily mean that all the residents who left will return. A yearly cumulative radiation dose of 20 millisieverts is the criteria for lifting the status of a no-go zone, and there’s a possibility that many households with children will refuse to return citing such radiation levels as too high.

The government has revealed its plan to offer additional compensation to residents who return early, but the government must institute assistance measures for all victims of the disaster while respecting individual choices, including that of not returning to their Fukushima hometowns.

 

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20131230p2a00m0na010000c.html

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