FUKUSHIMA — The central government’s efforts to reclassify evacuation areas around the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant under a new zoning system for decontamination and financial compensation has been significantly delayed as residents in the affected regions continue to demand “fair” compensation.
Under the reclassification that the government had earlier planned to implement on April 1, the 11 municipalities falling within the evacuation zones near the damaged nuclear plant would be divided into three new zones based on radiation levels.
Financial compensation for emotional distress for residents is proposed as follows: (1) a lump sum of 6 million yen per person for residents living in zones where return is restricted for a minimum of at least five years, (2) a lump sum of 2.4 million yen per person for residents in zones where return is expected to be possible in several years, and (3) 100,000 yen per person per month for residents in zones currently being prepared for the lifting of evacuation orders.
Compensation for land and homes would also vary by zones under the proposed scheme.
Two months have passed since the government initially planned to implement the reclassification scheme, and of the 11 concerned municipalities, only three — the cities of Minamisoma and Tamura and the village of Kawauchi — have agreed to the suggested conditions.
The prefectural town of Tomioka, where radiation levels are higher in its northern regions, would be divided into three zones under the plan. Tomioka officials have resisted the reclassification, stating that as long as villagers are not offered equal compensation across the board, the town will not accept the scheme.
“With the current lack of progress in decontamination and rebuilding infrastructure, many residents will not be able to return even after the reclassification takes place, and living conditions will not change,” says Tomio Midorikawa, chief of the Tomioka Municipal Government’s consumer and environmental protection division. “Given that, it is ridiculous to judge the impact of damage through radiation levels alone, differentiating between sets of residents who were forced to evacuate.”
The town of Futaba, which would also be subjected to a three-zone reclassification, has taken a similar stance.
“When we think about the conditions of financial compensation, it is difficult to accept the reclassification,” says an official with the municipal government’s headquarters for disaster control. “Is true reconstruction possible when only residents whose homes are in low-radiation areas return?”
In an appeal for equal compensation and the tightening of standards on maximum allowable annual radiation doses, Tomioka residents launched a signature campaign in April. Having already collected signatures from some 5,000 residents — one-third of the town’s population — the petition will be soon submitted to the Tomioka Municipal Government.
Ryoichi Murai, a 61-year-old Tomioka resident, who is taking shelter in the prefectural city of Iwaki and participated in the signature campaign, urges the central government not to discriminate against residents.
“If evacuees from the same town are subjected to varying amounts of financial compensation, a sense of unfairness will grow between them,” Murai says. “I don’t want us to be discriminated against via this compensation system.”
The Minamisoma Municipal Government agreed to the reclassification plan in April, judging that decontamination and reconstruction would be delayed if the city continued to be classified as a no-go zone. However, it argues that classification and compensation are separate issues, and is appealing to the central government to compensate all residents equally.
Meanwhile, the town of Naraha is expected to fall entirely under the “evacuation order release preparatory zone,” which means all its residents would receive the same amount of compensation. The town government is planning to conduct a resident survey toward approval of the reclassification.