Nuclear accident evacuees to sue government, TEPCO for damages

August 27, 2013

By GEN OKAMOTO/ Staff Writer

OSAKA--Residents of Fukushima Prefecture and other areas who evacuated after the onset of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are planning to file lawsuits in district courts in the Kansai region against the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator.

About 140 plaintiffs will seek a total of about 1 billion yen ($10 million) as compensation for psychological stress suffered due to the nuclear accident and for the upending of their daily lives.

These will be the first lawsuits to be filed in western Japan. On March 11, 2013, the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, 1,650 residents and evacuees filed lawsuits in district courts in eastern Japan.

According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, those who will join in the lawsuit will be 12 residents of Minami-Soma, Namie and Tomioka of Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation instructions were issued after the nuclear accident, as well as about 130 other residents of Fukushima, Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures.

Lawsuits will be submitted to the district courts in Osaka and Kyoto on Sept. 17, and to Kobe District Court in late September.

The lawyers will argue that the central government failed to take necessary safety measures, even though it recognized the danger of an accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The compensation will be for being forced to evacuate, as well as expenses incurred in the process of leading lives as evacuees and leaving some family members behind in Fukushima.

Some plaintiffs also plan to seek compensation for damage to their homes.

According to officials of the Reconstruction Agency, as of Aug. 12, there were a total of 61,355 residents of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate who fled their prefectures after the natural disasters and nuclear accident.

A number of prospective plaintiffs met with the media on Aug. 26 to explain their decision to sue the government and TEPCO.

Katsutoshi Sato, 52, had a home in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, that was 45 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. However, due to health concerns, Sato evacuated with his 76-year-old mother, 52-year-old wife and 17-year-old daughter to Ritto, Shiga Prefecture, where his younger brother lives. March 11, 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit, was the date for his daughter's graduation ceremony at her junior high school.

After the nuclear accident, Sato made round trips between Fukushima and Shiga on a weekly basis to try to maintain the equipment company that he owned. However, sales dropped by about 70 percent and his wife was hospitalized with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In spring 2012, Sato decided to abandon plans to rebuild his company and shifted his residence to Ritto. Although he now works as a temporary worker at a citizens' activity center in neighboring Otsu, his income has decreased sharply.

"My life was destroyed by the accident," Sato said at the Aug. 26 news conference. "I want to pursue the responsibility of the central government and TEPCO through the lawsuit."

Akiko Morimatsu, 39, who will head the plaintiffs' group, evacuated from Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, to Osaka with her 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

"I want the case to serve as a way to protect the health and future of my children," Morimatsu said.

By GEN OKAMOTO/ Staff Writer
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Katsutoshi Sato, left, and other prospective plaintiffs respond to questions from the media on Aug. 26 in Osaka. (Gen Okamoto)

Katsutoshi Sato, left, and other prospective plaintiffs respond to questions from the media on Aug. 26 in Osaka. (Gen Okamoto)

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  • Katsutoshi Sato, left, and other prospective plaintiffs respond to questions from the media on Aug. 26 in Osaka. (Gen Okamoto)

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