TEPCO ordered to pay damages for voluntary evacuation from Fukushima

KYOTO —

A court has ruled that the operator of the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex is liable for damages stemming from voluntary evacuation by residents in Fukushima Prefecture, believed to be the first ruling of its kind.

The Kyoto District Court on Thursday ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) to pay about 30 million yen in damages to a couple in which the husband lost his job and developed mental illness after the family voluntarily fled in the wake of nuclear disaster triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The sum the court awarded to the couple in their 40s is also much bigger than the 11 million yen proposed by a government-established center to mediate out-of-court settlements for nuclear accident compensation.

The plaintiffs said the ruling “set an example that there is no need to give up when evacuees do not feel satisfied with the sum” presented by the dispute resolution center. The couple, who have evacuated to the city of Kyoto, sought about 180 million yen from TEPCO in the lawsuit filed in 2013.

According to the ruling, the husband was managing a company before he and his family fled Fukushima in the wake of the nuclear disaster. The husband then developed sleeping problems and suffered from depression before becoming unable to work around May 2011.

Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki determined that the nuclear accident “was one of the main reasons” that the husband suffered mental and other problems. He also found that the financial loss the couple faced was the consequence of the accident.

Of the amount TEPCO was ordered to pay, about 21 million yen in damages is associated with lost employment income and expenses due to evacuation, the ruling said.

Another 1.7 million yen is compensation for being “forced to move to a land with no ties with Fukushima Prefecture which they were familiar with,” the court said, adding that they “lost a stable life.”

During the triple reactor core meltdown disaster, residents living within 20 kilometers of the TEPCO nuclear plant and some areas beyond were ordered to evacuate. Many others also fled from their homes at their own discretion.

© KYODO

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