Tokyo Electric Will Pay Damages to Nuclear Crisis Evacuees

TOKYO, Japan, April 15, 2011 (ENS) – Japan’s government has ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to compensate residents within 30 kilometers (20 miles) of the power plant who had to evacuate or stay indoors to minimize radiation exposure.

Tokyo Electric Power Company President Masataka Shimizu announced today that each family will receive one million yen, or about US$12,000 dollars, and each single-person household will receive 750,000 yen, or US$9,000 dollars.

The payment total is estimated at US$600 million dollars.

At least 185,000 residents cannot return to their homes near the nuclear power plant and have lost their jobs and belongings. Most are staying in evacuation shelters indefinitely, while some have traveled to Tokyo to demand compensation from TEPCO.

Evacuees who fled the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, March 15, 2011 (Photo credit unknown)

Shimizu said the company plans to establish the Fukushima Nuclear Compensation Office on April 28, which will be the contact point for all matters related to the damages caused by the nuclear accident as well as temporary compensation.

Trade Minister Banri Kaieda told reporters, “There are around 150 evacuation centers alone. It will take some time until everyone gets money. But we want the company to quickly do this to support people’s lives.”

“From today, after consultation with local government of the designated areas, we will hold information sessions and begin distributing application forms at places such as evacuation centers,” TEPCO said in a statement.

Today, TEPCO flew an unmanned helicopter over damaged reactor Units 1, 2, 3, and 4 to check the condition of the buildings housing the reactors, which have been emitting high levels of radiation to air, soil and sea.

The nuclear plant lost both outside power and emergency power to its cooling systems during the March 11 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami, leaving the nuclear fuel exposed to the air.

Explosions of hydrogen gas on March 12, 14 and 15 blasted the reactor containment buildings at Units 1, 3 and 4 and spread highly radioactive materials far and wide.

The company has been spraying first seawater and then fresh water into the reactors in continuing attempts to cool the fuel.

The United States Thursday lifted its voluntary evacuation advisory for families of government employees in Tokyo and other Japanese cities that was issued due to the crisis at the nuclear power plant.

The damaged Unit 3 reactor at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, April 10, 2011 (Photo courtesy TEPCO)

But the State Department has not lifted its recommendation that U.S. citizens avoid travel within the 80 km (50 mile) radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, recommending that U.S. citizens still within this radius should evacuate or shelter in place.

While the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains “serious and dynamic,” the health and safety risks to areas beyond the 50 mile evacuation zone “are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens,” the State Department said.

“The situation at the plant is dramatically different today than it was on March 16, when we saw significant ongoing releases of radioactivity, the loss of effective means to cool the reactor cores and spent fuel, the absence of outside power or fresh water supply for emergency management, and considerable uncertainty about the condition of the site,” said the State Department.

“Today, while the situation remains serious, and there is still a possibility of unanticipated developments, cooling efforts are ongoing and successful, power, water supply, and back-up services have been partially or fully restored, and planning has begun to control radioactive contamination and mitigate future dangers,” the State Department said. “Our coordination with the Japanese is regular and productive, and we have a greatly increased capacity to measure and analyze risks.”

Japan’s nuclear safety agency Tuesday raised the crisis level at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to a Level 7 from the previous rating of 5 on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s event scale.

Level 7 is the highest rank on the IAEA’s International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale and equivalent to the severity recorded after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, which is the only other nuclear accident ever to have been rated a Level 7 event.

Japan has received help from around the world to recovery from this catastrophe, which claimed at least 28,000 lives and displaced some 450,000 people.

Chinese President Hu Jintao has called on Asian countries to unite in supporting Japan in its efforts to cope with the effects of the disaster.

Speaking on Hainan Island at the BRICS international forum for political and business leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and China, President Hu said the people of China and other Asian nations have felt the suffering of the Japanese people as their own, and have extended support.

He called on Asian people to show the world that they unite to help each other.

On April 9 at a special meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, the foreign ministers of the 10 nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations passed a resolution recalling Japan’s “unwavering support” of ASEAN Member States when natural disaster struck, and stating their commitment to support the relief, recovery, and reconstruction process in Japan in response to Japan’s request.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono underlined the solidarity between ASEAN and Japan in addressing natural disasters and pledged to enhance cooperation in disaster management.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.