The government will instruct Tokyo Electric Power Co. to terminate compensation payments to 54,800 evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2018, regardless of radiation levels in their hometowns, sources said.
The new compensation plan of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is based on the assumption that decontamination work will lower radiation levels and enable the government to lift evacuation orders in those areas, the sources said May 18.
Currently, the homes of about 80,000 evacuees are located in three zones designated by the government in terms of severity of radiation contamination.
Around 31,800 evacuees’ homes are in “zones being prepared for the lifting of evacuation order,” while 23,000 people have fled their homes in what are now “no-residence zones.”
TEPCO currently pays each of these 54,800 evacuees 100,000 yen (about $834) in compensation a month.
The new plan will affect evacuees from these two zones.
The remaining 24,400 people have homes located in “difficult-to-return zones,” where there are no prospects of lifting the evacuation orders. TEPCO has paid a total of 14.5 million yen to each of these evacuees.
The government’s current guidelines on compensation stipulate that payments should end one year after evacuation orders are lifted.
Under the new plan, the government and ruling parties assume that the evacuation period for people in the first two zones will end “six years after the March 2011 nuclear accident.” That assumption is based on another assumption that decontamination work will be completed by March 2017 and evacuation orders can be called off by that time.
As a result, compensation payments for people from the two zones will end in March 2018. Each of the evacuees will have received a total of 8.4 million yen during the seven years since the accident started at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The current compensation system allows evacuees to receive additional compensation payments if their evacuation periods are extended. Some critics say evacuees are hoping for a continuation of evacuation orders so that they can receive more money.
But the new plan will terminate compensation payments for the two zones in 2018 without exception. If the evacuation order is lifted five years after the nuclear accident, the evacuees from the area can still receive compensation for two more years, even though they are qualified for only one additional year under the current system.
Adoption of the new plan will make it easier for the government to work out support measures for people who return to their hometowns in the two zones, the sources said.
“The lifting of evacuation orders will proceed,” a government official said. “We will be able to construct houses and attract plants and firms (to the areas) more positively.”
However, it is not clear whether radiation levels will drop as expected by March 2018.
Even if evacuation orders remain in place because of delays in decontamination work, the compensation payments will still end in 2018 for the two zones, the sources said.