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Japan plant operator offers 'consolation' payments

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) April 5, 2011
The operator of a stricken Japanese nuclear plant has offered "consolation" payments to 10 nearby municipalities whose residents have been forced to evacuate, the company said Tuesday.

But in an illustration of public anger against Tokyo Electric Power, the utility at the centre of the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, one of the municipalities refused the 20 million yen ($237,300) offer.

People living near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have seen their livelihoods jeopardised by a nuclear emergency triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Around 80,000 people have been told to evacuate, while many farmers inside and outside of Fukushima Prefecture face shipment restrictions after radioactive substances were found in food products.

A spokeswoman for Namie town said it had rejected TEPCO's offer "so that we can leave room for speaking strongly against the company."

She added: "The town has a population of over 20,000, so the amount to be received by each resident would be less than 1,000 yen. Such money would not help affected people to make a living".

More than three weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi remains unresolved after its reactor cooling systems were knocked out, triggering explosions and fires, and emitting radiation.

The plant northeast of Tokyo has sent radioactive material into the air, contaminating farm produce and drinking water. Radioactive water has seeped into the Pacific Ocean but officials stress there is no imminent health threat.

Residents in areas within a 20-kilometre radius of the plant have been ordered to evacuate due to radiation fears.

Industry minister Banri Kaieda on Tuesday told reporters he had ordered TEPCO to prepare to pay provisional compensation to give much-needed cash to affected residents.

A spokesman for TEPCO told AFP that the company has provided a "consolation" payment to nine municipalities affected by the evacuation order covering the 20 kilometre radius from the plant, but that Namie had not accepted.

The payment is separate to compensation, with the company still assessing its obligations with the government, Kyodo news reported.

Heads of municipalities close to the nuclear plant met with Prime Minister Kan Tuesday and submitted an emergency request calling for compensation, the Nikkei business daily said.

"TEPCO will undertake what it can do but I promise that the state will ultimately take responsibility until the very end to cope with it," the Nikkei quoted Kan as saying.

Kan last week moved to dismiss speculation the government is planning to nationalise the company as it faces mounting compensation obligations, although TEPCO has said it may need state help to meet them.

TEPCO shares dived to a record low Tuesday amid concerns it will face huge compensation bills. Some analysts estimate TEPCO could face claims of more than 10 trillion yen ($118 billion).

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