Exposed: Japanese Officials Upped Radiation Yardsticks to Dodge Compensation Costs

Watching radiation levels increase on a drive from Fukushima City to Iitate Village.
(Photo: Haruhiko Okumura/cc/flickr)

Exposed: Japanese Officials Upped Radiation Yardsticks to Dodge Compensation Costs

Investigation by The Asahi Shimbun shows higher level was sought to lower number of evacuees, limit compensation

Japanese officials raised the level of acceptable radiation doses for evacuees of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to avoid increasing costs for compensation, Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported on Saturday.

A 5-millisieverts per year dose, the same level of exposure used as a yardstick to relocate residents after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, was proposed at an unofficial meeting of ministers in October of 2011, seven months after the disaster began, they report.

But just weeks later, the yardstick was upped to 20 millisieverts per year.

... at a meeting on Oct. 28, joined by Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura and Tatsuo Kawabata, internal affairs minister, participants appeared reluctant to approve a yardstick other than 20 millisieverts. [...]

"The prefectural government could not function with population drain under the 5-millisievert scenario," said a state minister who attended the meeting. "In addition, there were concerns that more compensation money will be needed, with an increase in the number of evacuees." [...]

The Abe administration in March decided to release by the end of this year a set of protection measures for evacuees returning to areas with doses of up to 20 millisieverts.

The move is apparently aimed at setting the stage for return of evacuees even if decontamination operation fails to achieve the target of 1 millisievert. [...]

The Japan Times reported that

At least 157,000 people fled their homes in Fukushima because of the 2011 nuclear disaster, tsunami, and earthquake. Some 32,000 of them now live in temporary housing developments in the prefecture. Around 59,000 more live in subsidized apartments there. Rent is free but utilities are not.

This arrangement was originally supposed to last for two years. But more than two years have passed and final compensation settlements from Tepco have not been decided; permanent housing for displaced people has not been built; and much of the evacuation zone -- which includes eleven towns and extends up to 45 km from the plant -- remains uninhabitable. The government now plans to extend the amount of time residents can stay in the temporary houses to four years.

An earlier investigation by Asahi Shimbun revealed that 60 percent of Fukushima evacuees, roughly 54,000 people, would still be unable to return home by 2017.

The evacuees from the nuclear disaster aren't limited to Fukushima prefecture.

Some residents from Hippo district in Miyagi prefecture, just outside of Fukushima, have said that some radiation levels in their area exceed some of those in Fukushima, and are demanding the same compensation, the Associated Press reported. Lack of compensation for these people, critics say, is another effort to avoid costs.

"Damages from the nuclear accident do not stop at the border. We hope that the compensation program is carried out in a way that reflects the reality of people's lives," said Koji Otani, a lawyer representing the Hippo residents


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