Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments


Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments

[As of 9/26/2014, the Fukushima accident evacuees have received $42.85 billion (USD) in personal and property compensation.]

The earthquakes and tsunami of March 11, 2011, forced tens of thousands of people to flee the Fukushima Prefecture coastline. Some five hours later an evacuation alert was issued for the area near the F. Daiichi site, and tens of thousands of inland residents people began fleeing from the vicinity. It is often reported that as many as 160,000 Fukushima residents became displaced from their homes. About 85,000 were due to Tokyo government mandates (orders), and about 75,000 were “voluntary” from outside the exclusion (no-go) zones. All have been compensated financially by Tepco, as ordered by the government.

The “voluntary” evacuees fled primarily due to fears of low level radiation exposure and the possibility of the accident somehow worsening. Since the three damaged nuclear units’ reactors achieved “cold shutdown” near the end of 2011, it became highly unlikely that conditions at F. Daiichi would worsen. Also, radiation levels outside the “no-go” zone were so low that remaining estranged from hearth and home made no sense. Thus, most of the money paid in compensation to voluntary evacuees ended. The total paid out to them stands $3.53 billion, or more than $41,500 to every man, woman and child who fled in fear.

The situation with the 85,000 Tokyo-mandated evacuees is quite different. Each evacuee has been receiving $7,500 per month in basic evacuation compensation since the spring of 2011. Therefore, the “typical” family of four has been getting $30,000 per month in basic payment. Further, another $1,000 per month has been paid to each evacuee since March of 2013 for mental anguish. Thus, the typical family of four now receives a total of $34,000 per month. Thus, Tepco is paying out more than $722 million per month in evacuation and mental anguish compensation. Further, Tokyo wants another lump-sum pay-out of up to $60,000 for emotional damage to each of the ~25,000 mandated evacuees the government expects to remain estranged for at least another 5 years. This issue has yet to be resolved.

The 15,000 evacuees from Namie are getting even more in their monthly compensation checks. In late May of 2014, the Center for Settlement of Fukushima Nuclear Damage Claims ordered Tepco to pay each Namie resident an additional $500 per month for mental anguish. 98% of the refugees agreed to the settlement. Originally, the town asked for a $2,500 per month increase, but arbitrators reduced it. The increase will apply retroactively to February 2013, when the current mental compensation pay-outs began. There is a two year statute on the new amount, which ends in February, 2015. Further, 39 households in Kawamata Town won a $20 million settlement for property compensation. All of the lands are outside the Tokyo-mandated exclusion zone. The arbitrator’s award was based on the fact that the properties have detectible levels of radiation above the Fukushima recovery goal of 1 millisievert per year. Also, in districts where mandated evacuation restrictions have been abolished, each returning resident gets a lump-sum payment of $9,000. Unfortunately, only about 20% of the evacuees from restriction-lifted districts have gone home and received the money.

On top of all this, property owners and businesses impacted by the mandated evacuation are receiving supplementary compensation to the tune of more than $788 million per month. Many of the mandated evacuees owned property and some were proprietors of businesses located inside the “no-go” zone. How this breaks down per landowner/proprietor has not been posted. Nonetheless, they receive much more money than evacuees who did not own property or run businesses. It should be noted that business and corporate proprietors who live outside the mandated exclusion zones also receive this compensation, but not the basic evacuee and mental anguish monies.

Clearly, the business of being a Fukushima evacuee is profitable.

Unfortunately, precious few news media outlets in Japan have reported on what is nothing less than a financial windfall for Fukushima evacuees. The first report was posted by the Asahi Shimbun on October 26, 2013. (2) It took me several days to get my mind around the numbers. I returned to the article many times to make sure I read it correctly. The payouts were staggering to me, and I’m not afraid to admit of a bit of outrage on my part. I had a feeling the stipends were considerable, but nothing like the Asahi reported. I subsequently posted a Commentary, The Business of Being a Fukushima Refugee, on October 30. (3) Soon after, a colleague at Forbes Magazine, Jim Conca, decided to post a blog on the compensation numbers. While Jim trusted my posting, it seemed that he needed more than just the solitary Asahi article as proof. The next day, I received an Email from an official in Tokyo, Genn Saji, with a copy of Tepco’s latest financial report on the matter. The numbers were western but the language was Japanese-only, however the numbers seemed exactly as reported in the Asahi. The first week of November, Tepco began posting their monthly report in English (and subsequently began updating the numbers weekly). I shared this all with Dr. Conca and his blog on the matter was posted. (4)

Both Jim and I received numerous objections to our reports. In the majority of cases, the commenters just could not bring themselves to believe what we had found. A few objectors thought both of us were lying, nuclear industry shills. Regardless, I have been posting the ever-increasing totals on a weekly basis in my Fukushima Update blog. Objections and comments of disbelief continue to be sent to me. Yes…the amount of money evacuees are making is hard to believe, especially given the news media not reporting on it and the large number of reports concerning the perceived plight of the evacuees. But, the facts speak for themselves. All mandated Fukushima evacuees are making a lot of money.

As mentioned earlier, less than 20% of the former evacuees that Tokyo has allowed to go home have exploited the opportunity. The reported reasons are fear of low level radiation, concerns that another major accident is possible, and lack of infrastructural support in the exclusion zone. However, if they do return home, their generous compensation payments come to an end after one year! This must be a major reason why thousands of Fukushima evacuees refuse to go home! Fear may have some impact, but the massive loss of payout money necessarily skews the issue even more.

One final point…a few communities where living restrictions have been lifted for more than a year (e.g. districts in Tomioka, Hirono, and Kawauchi) have had the $1,000 per month mental anguish award stopped. This includes those who have returned as well as those who choose to remain estranged. The no-voluntary-evacuees want the mental anguish stipend restored. All of Japan’s Press have reported this as if all compensation payments have been terminated for the district residents, which is not the case. I have seen no report saying the resident’s other large compensations have been terminated. Let’s face it…if the monthly windfall were ceased, every newspaper in Japan would make it their lead story, and the international Press would be a-buzz!

References:

1 - Records of Applications and Payouts for Indemnification of Nuclear Damage; http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/comp/images/jisseki-e.pdf

2 - http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201310260046

3 - http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary-11.html

4 – http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2013/11/04/the-fukushima-refugee-business/