Fukushima residents win 500m yen payout over nuclear disaster

Government, Tepco ordered to pay about ¥500 million in damages for Fukushima disaster

In holding the government and TEPCO liable in the class-action lawsuit, the Fukushima district court ordered payments totaling almost $4.5 million to about 3,800 plaintiffs - roughly $1,184 per person.

Japan could have foreseen and avoided the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, a court ruled on Tuesday, ordering the government and the power plant operator to pay damages to local residents.

"The government's inaction in exercising its regulatory authority (to order Tepco to take safety measures) was extremely unreasonable", the judge said.

The court awarded the plaintiffs a total of close to 498 million yen and denied the request to force the company to lower the average radiation dosage. Tepco, which ran the plant when it was struck by a powerful natural disaster and tsunami on 11 March 2011, has been ordered to pay damages in all three court rulings to date.

This is the third court decision on the accident at the nuclear power plant. The plaintiffs in the Chiba and Maebashi cases were evacuees, including those who were subject to government evacuation orders and those who had left their homes at their own discretion.

As John Matthews reports for NPR's Newscast unit from Tokyo, the court decided that "the government and the utility failed to act on a 2002 report that predicted a 20 percent chance of a major quake triggering a tsunami in the following 30 years".

The plaintiffs who will receive the payments are Fukushima residents who live both in and outside the evacuation zones and some plaintiffs in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The ruling dismissed the plaintiffs' demand that radiation levels in their former neighborhoods be reduced to predisaster levels.

The government and Tepco, for their part, claimed the assessment was not established knowledge, and that the tsunami could not have been foreseen.

The Fukushima district court's verdict was the second time the government has been ruled liable for the meltdown in eastern Japan, the world's most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the contaminated area.

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