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Editorial: Ruling pressures Japan to set proper damages for Fukushima nuclear disaster via The Mainichi

The amount of compensation has been finalized in a series of class-action lawsuits brought by people affected by the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station managed by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings (TEPCO). The Supreme Court rejected appeals filed by TEPCO in six cases.

It is a message from the judiciary that relief for victims of the unprecedented nuclear disaster is insufficient. In each of the cases, the amounts awarded exceeded the compensation standards set by the Japanese government. The administration should seriously take the judicial decision to heart, and the standards should be revised immediately.

According to the government’s standards, people who lived in what are now called “difficult-to-return” zones are entitled to 14.5 million yen (about $121,600) in compensation, while those who evacuated voluntarily are entitled to damages of 80,000 yen (about $670). The amount was determined with reference to liability insurance for traffic accidents.

However, those who were forced to evacuate or otherwise relocate were deprived of their lives in their hometowns and local community ties. And people who continued to live in those areas were unable to engage in agriculture, fishing or other such lines of work.

In six high court cases, the courts increased the amounts of compensation to several million yen above the government’s standards and expanded the areas eligible for compensation, among other measures. They judged that the government standards did not set compensation high enough for people who had lost the basis for their livelihoods and had seen their hometowns utterly transformed.

In particular, in a ruling on one case with about 3,600 plaintiffs, the court set compensation amounts by evacuation zone and area. There is accordingly room for those who did not take part in the suit to file for compensation in the future.

To advance relief in line with the actual situations of victims, there is an urgent need to raise the government’s standards and expand the areas eligible for redress. Local bodies in affected areas are also calling for reviews.

Meanwhile, TEPCO’s response is being questioned anew.

In court, TEPCO maintained that it could not accept compensation that exceeded the standards. It even went as far as to claim that the current standards were too high.

The nuclear disaster compensation system is not premised on a presumption of negligence by TEPCO. Yet there have been rulings pointing out inadequate safety measures. The company’s responsibility is extremely heavy.

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