Family members of a farmer who killed himself after the Fukushima nuclear disaster lashed out at Tokyo Electric Power Co. on June 5 for refusing to apologize for his death.
The family of farmer Hisashi Tarukawa and TEPCO, operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, are expected to reach an agreement over compensation to the surviving family members. But they are also demanding that TEPCO change its attitude.
“I want TEPCO to come to my house and offer incense sticks before the tablet of my deceased father,” said Kazuya Tarukawa, 37, who has taken over his father’s vegetable farm.
Kazuya, the second-oldest son, could barely suppress his anger when he said quietly, “Even if we reached a settlement, my heart won’t be happy without it (TEPCO’s visit).”
Hisashi Tarukawa operated an organic farm in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture. But after the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, the government imposed restrictions on the intake of vegetables grown in the prefecture on March 23.
Hisashi, 64, hanged himself the next morning.
The family contacted the nuclear damage claim dispute resolution center, which was set up by the government, to seek compensation from TEPCO.
According to sources close to the family, the center suggested a settlement offer in April this year, and TEPCO expressed its willingness to provide that amount in May.
It was the first time for TEPCO to accept a claim from a bereaved family over a suicide related to the nuclear disaster. The compensation amount is expected to exceed 10 million yen ($100,000).
However, the family’s request for an apology from TEPCO was denied.
“We would like to convey our feelings by making compensation as soon as possible, and we hope you’ll forgive us for not being able to respond to your request directly,” the company wrote in a letter sent to the family in May.
Izutaro Managi, a lawyer representing the family, criticized TEPCO’s response.
“It does not sincerely feel any responsibility,” Managi said at the news conference.
A judge with experience in civil cases said many parties are reluctant to express apologies in written form, even if they have reached a settlement in trials, because they do not want to leave any record of admitting their guilt.
“TEPCO might also feel that there would be no end to making apologies to individuals,” the judge said.
By June 4, the nuclear damage claim dispute resolution center had helped settle 2,880 compensation cases.
“We decline to comment because this is an individual case,” a TEPCO public relations official said.
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