​7,000 Japanese claim $297mn in Fukushima nuclear disaster damages

Reuters / Shizuo Kambayashi
Some 7,000 people in Japan's Tochigi prefecture have sought $297 million in compensation over the Fukushima nuclear disaster. They are also demanding a decontamination fund, health checks, and an apology from the plant's operator.

The residents' lead lawyer, Koji Otani, said it is “irrational” for his clients to be treated differently than Fukushima residents, as the same amount of radiation was detected in Tochigi, Kyodo News reported.

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The move by residents of Tochigi prefecture –some 100 kilometers from the site of the nuclear disaster – demands the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), act on their requests.

“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.

They are demanding sums ranging from 120,000 yen (US$971) to 720,000 yen ($5,800) per person, which is equivalent to the amount awarded to voluntary evacuees in Fukushima. The compensation is for mental suffering and extra living expenses caused by the disaster, according to lawyers.

In addition to financial compensation, the residents are also demanding a fund for decontamination, health checks, and an official apology from TEPCO.

The residents filed the appeal with the Nuclear Compensation Dispute Resolution Center on Monday. They were living in Otawara, Nasushiobara, and Nasu at the time of the nuclear meltdown.

“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.

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“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.

Over 30 percent of those seeking compensation were under 18 at the time of the disaster, or were born after it happened, attorneys said.

The appeal comes more than four years after a massive earthquake and tsunami led to the March 2011 meltdown of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, leading to the contamination of surrounding areas.