Japan court orders compensation for Fukushima nuclear crisis evacuees

Tokyo: A court in Japan on Wednesday ordered the government and the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to pay damages to those affected by the disaster in 2011.

The Yokohama District Court ruled that nearly 420 million yen (around $3.8 million) be paid in compensation by the central government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to 152 people evacuated following the massive nuclear accident triggered by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The court’s verdict was the fifth to find the government liable in one of approximately 30 similar lawsuits filed throughout the country by those displaced and affected by the disaster.

A total of 175 people from 60 households – including those evacuated to Kanagawa prefecture from Fukushima, whose capital is Yokohama, located south of Tokyo – had demanded a total of about 5.4 billion yen in damages for loss of livelihood and psychological suffering due to the “loss of their hometown”.

Presiding Judge Ken Nakadaira said the disaster could have been prevented if the state had acted in 2009 on an expert’s projection that a massive tsunami similar to the one in the ninth century could strike the area again, Kyodo News reported.

The judge added that it was possible before the end of 2010 to implement steps such as emergency power generators to prevent core reactor damage and hydrogen explosions that led to massive radioactive leaks, calling it a “mistake and failure”.

He also said it was illegal that the state didn’t properly exercise its regulatory authority over TEPCO.

It was the sixth lawsuit filed against the state and TEPCO by those affected by the Fukushima disaster, NHK said.

The verdict came weeks before the eighth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – the worst since Chernobyl in 1986 – which displaced thousands of people and affected local businesses when the plant spewed radioactive materials causing multiple meltdowns and hydrogen blasts.

After the 2011 accident, Japanese authorities set up obligatory evacuation zones and areas of restricted access around the Fukushima Daiichi plant, depending on the levels of radioactivity.

Since then, the authorities have progressively reopened these zones after decontaminating the site, although only a handful of people have returned to live in the area fearing persisting radioactivity.