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Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments (updated monthly)

Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments (updated monthly)

[As of 11/20/2015, the Fukushima accident evacuees have received more than 5.7 trillion yen in personal and property compensation. The amount swells by an average of ~22 billion yen per week. Of the total, 2.5 trillion yen has been paid to all government-mandated refugees for evacuation indemnification. On top of this, 2.7 trillion yen has been paid to business and property owners. In addition, 100,000 yen per month has been paid to each evacuee for "mental anguish" over the past four years. Total pay-outs (compensation plus mental anguish) is 7 trillion yen - $60 billion. The exchange rate was $1 USD per 90-100 yen from 2011-2013. Since then it has varied between 120-125 yen per $1.]

Update 6-29-15... Living restrictions for nearly 55,000 mandated evacuees will be lifted by March, 2017. This will affect nearly 75% of those currently subject to the Tokyo evacuation order of 2011. The locations affected will have exposure rates less than 50 millisieverts per year.  The plan also calls for continuing the ~$1,000 per month (per person) mental anguish stipend until March 2017, regardless of whether or not restrictions are lifted and/or residents return home before that date. In addition, the goverment"s free rent stipend for voluntary evacuees living outside GFukushima Prefecture will end in March 2017. Tokyo and Fukushima Prefecture say there will be some support for the voluntaries living in a state of poverty, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. ...end update.

Update 4-4-15... Tokyo is hesitant to charge Tepco for voluntary evacuee rent money. Under the Disaster Relief Act, both government-mandated and voluntary evacuees have been provided rent-free apartments as temporary residences. Tepco pays for the cost of the residences of Tokyo-ordered evacuees, but Tepco will not pay for voluntary evacuee apartments. It seems the law calls for the company at-fault must eventually pay for all government costs with respect to recovery. But, the issue of cost recovery for voluntary evacuees is unclear under the law because it has not happened before. The total being spent on this is about $300 million per year. The Dispute Reconciliation Committee might be the ones who resolve the dilemma. They have found in favor of the voluntary evacuees in the past. They have awarded voluntary evacuees lump-sum payments of over $1,000 each for psychological distress, except for children and pregnant women who have been paid a lump-sum of about $7,000 each. ...end update.

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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 loss of massive amounts 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 dissident evacuees who refuse to repopulate 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 with condemning bombast!

Before ending, it is imporatnt to note that on May 30, 2011, the Asahi Shimbun reported the government will compensate farmers and other food-related businesses that have lost money because of “harmful rumors” concerning Fukushima “radioactive fallout”. Compensation will be extended to Fukushima Prefecture and the four surrounding prefectures. The Asahia dded, “The amount of compensation will be determined by taking into account decreases in sales due to consumers' reluctance to buy the products, suspended business transactions and decreases in workers' incomes,” and the government considers the public aversion toward food produced from prefectures near Fukushima “rational” because the public believed the rumors were “serious and real.” These pay-outs have been given ever since.

The current total for rumor-related compensation is difficult to ascertain. However, a report published in the International Journal of Food and Agricultural Economics  shows that by the end of May, 2012, showed that demanded compensation in Fukushima was 109 billion yen (~$1 billion) and received compensation was 97 billion yen (89% of demand). Most claims were for horticulture and livestock damages. According to experts compensation payments to farmers in neighboring prefectures was at lower rate, for example in Miyagi prefecture 50%. The study also showed that the loss of income in neighboring prefectures was much less when 2011 figures were compared to 2010. In fact, there was essentially no difference between the two years for Ibaraki.

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Next, we have the Mainichi Shimbun (MS) articles of 1/5/14, “TEPCO seeks refunds of evacuation payments from employees, rejects ADR settlement” and 1/8/14, “TEPCO demands families of employees return compensation for evacuation”. (6)

Tepco does not feel they should have to provide property compensation to people who rented their homes at the time of evacuation. The company is not challenging property compensation for former homeowners…just Tepco employees who rented. It seems all evacuated Tepco employees have received the same monthly, $1,000 per person pay-outs for property losses as those who do not work for the company. Out of some 85,000 persons who have qualified for government-mandated property compensation, there are but fifteen who would be affected. A total of more than $1 million in refunds are being sought by the Company. That’s a lot of money, but perhaps they should not have been given the funds in the first place.

In one case, a single household is being asked to return $300,000. The employee asked for, and received $200,000 for an anticipated 5 year hiatus from their rented home. This is the bulk of the money the company wants returned. The remainder is because of new appliances and furnishings they bought after moving to another rental property outside the evacuation zone. A second employee who rented had his monthly $1,000 per month property compensation cut by Tepco a little over a year ago, and now wants the money he was cut to be issued to him. Rumor has it that there are other Tepco employees who also had their property compensation cut, as well. In addition, another Tepco employee had won arbitration which would absolve him of making a refund, but Tepco refused the non-binding proposal. Critics are, of course, screaming bloody murder. One said, "The families of employees aren't responsible for the nuclear disaster. As such, the firm's demands for the return of the compensation are inappropriate," which fails to address that the employee was not a homeowner and has been getting a Tepco paycheck all-along. In addition, the lawyer used by the evacuated families of Tepco employees, Tsuyoshi Kamata, says, "TEPCO's attitude to require families of employees to tolerate hardship is impermissible. The company needs to improve itself."

Regardless, the Mainichi presents the story in a fashion that makes it seem as if all Tepco employee evacuees are being treated wrongly, which is a significant exaggeration. Plus, these few exceptions to the hundreds of Tepco employees and their families who evacuated, are hardly the rule. But, the bottom line question is this…should Tepco pay company-salaried renters the same property compensation as homeowners? I think not.

Tepco says they are being entirely appropriate, which I believe is correct. It must be stressed that the monies Tepco wants refunded are not part of the general compensation payments of $30,000 per month a typical family of four has been getting for evacuation stressors, psychological distress and other non-property-related reasons. I think this generous hand-out, plus the employee salary, is more than enough compensation for someone who did not own property at the time of the accident.

And how much compensation will property owners eventually get? I have received a breakdown of the property compensation a family of four will receive if they either cannot or otherwise refuse to return home, from the former Chief Secretary of Japan’s NSC, Genn Saji.* The chart shows that each homeowner will be given, on the average, about $900,000 in property compensation. As posted in the Asahi Shimbun last month, and verified in Tepco’s financial statement, an evacuated family of four has already made nearly $1 million in general reparation. By combining the two compensations, each non-returning-to-home family of four will receive between $2 million and $3 million by the end of 2017 (when the new statute runs out). There’s no doubt that the business of being a Fukushima evacuee is even more lucrative than ever.

I don’t blame the Tepco employees (who rented) for trying to get as much of the windfall as they can. However, I think they do not deserve the property-loss compensation because they did not own the property they lived on. The Mainichi Shimbun thinks otherwise and strongly suggests it is the case with all Tepco-employed evacuees.


1 - Records of Applications and Payouts for Indemnification of Nuclear Damage;

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