Photo/IllutrationPlaintiffs in the lawsuit against TEPCO and the government gather in front of the Fukushima District Court in Fukushima on Nov 27. (Masahito Iinuma)

  • Photo/Illustraion

FUKUSHIMA--Dismayed at a breakdown in talks for compensation, residents of the disaster-stricken town of Namie filed a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the central government for damages stemming from the nuclear accident here in March 2011.

The plaintiffs are seeking 1.3 billion yen ($11.4 million) in financial redress.

The entire town was evacuated in the aftermath of a triple core meltdown at TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

The lawsuit was filed at the Fukushima District Court on Nov. 27 after five years of negotiations between the town and TEPCO collapsed in April over the utility's refusal to meet demands for more compensation.

According to court papers, 109 plaintiffs of 49 households are seeking 12.1 million yen in individual compensation.

They stated that the nuclear accident destroyed their community and forced them to live as evacuees for a prolonged period.

TEPCO, under guidelines established by the central government, has been paying 100,000 yen a month to each resident forced to evacuate.

However, town officials argued that the figure was painfully low and should be increased to compensate for psychological suffering caused by the disaster.

In May 2013, the Namie municipal authorities, acting on behalf of residents, asked the nuclear damage claim dispute resolution center, an organization established by the central government in response to the Fukushima disaster, to mediate in the dispute.

About 15,000 residents, more than 70 percent of the town's population, signed a petition for the mediation in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process at the center.

In March of 2014, an ADR proposal called for the monthly compensation to be uniformly increased by 50,000 yen.

The town accepted the offer but TEPCO rejected it, citing potential unfairness to others who had been compensated. In April, the center discontinued the reconciliation process.

Pointing out that TEPCO had reneged on its promise to “respect ADR reconciliation proposals,” the plaintiffs argued that the utility should pay for betraying the trust of residents.

An additional 2,000 or so townsfolk are planning to join the lawsuit.

In a statement, TEPCO said, “We will listen to the plaintiffs' requests and complaints in detail and respond sincerely.”

Not only were the lives of residents turned upside down by the nuclear disaster, but more than 180 perished in the tsunami that engulfed the town.

Although the evacuation order was lifted for some parts of the town at the end of March 2017, entry to most of the area remains prohibited.