Residents who voluntarily evacuated from areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant say they should receive compensation or at least a government acknowledgment that their homes are no longer safe.
"I did not believe the government's words that (our area) was 'safe' and have continued collecting information," Takako Shishido, 39, a resident of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, told members of the Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation on Oct. 20. "I hope the government will acknowledge our rights to protect our lives and to evacuate."
Shishido, who now lives in Sapporo, is one of an estimated 36,000 residents from Fukushima Prefecture who voluntarily evacuated from areas outside the 20-kilometer no-entry zone of the Fukushima plant.
The panel has presented a view that voluntary evacuees "should be provided compensation if their act of avoiding exposure to radiation was justifiable."
Residents forced to evacuate from their homes within the 20-km radius of the plant are eligible for compensation.
But a gray area has emerged for the zone between 20 and 30 km of the plant.
The central government on April 22 designated that zone an emergency evacuation area, meaning residents there were required to prepare to evacuate in the event of an emergency at the plant. They were not required to leave.
The panel has suggested that residents who left before the April 22 designation should be compensated.
"While the picture of the damage becomes clearer as time passes, it is strange to decide compensation by times of evacuation," said Seiichi Nakade, whose wife and two elementary-school-age sons evacuated to Okayama, while he stayed in Fukushima to continue his job.
Nakade, 50, who heads a group called the Fukushima network to protect children from radiation exposure, said the government should recognize parents' need to protect their children from dangerous radiation levels.
"There are many people who want to evacuate but cannot," he said. "Compensation for people--including those who still remain in Fukushima--should be discussed."
In the Watari district of Fukushima city where Nakade lives, the radiation level remained as high as 5.4 microseiverts per hour in August, according to government measurement. The Watari district lies outside the 30-km radius of the plant.
Shishido, who heads a housing residents' association in Sapporo, said evacuees from 160 households in Fukushima Prefecture now live in Sapporo's employment-promotion housing units.
Some 70 to 80 percent of these households consist of a mother and children who feel insecure about their everyday lives and worry about family members left behind in Fukushima Prefecture, Shishido said.
Chiaki Tomizuka, who currently lives in Yokohama with her 9-year-old son, said, "More than granting compensation payments, I want the government to acknowledge that our decision to evacuate was not wrong."
Her husband remains in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.
Tomizuka said she fears that drawing a April 22 line for compensation will widen the gap between voluntary evacuees.
"I don't want the government to further split us," she said.
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