Fukushima operator to compensate victim in suicide law suit, won't appeal

TOKYO, Sept 5 Fri Sep 5, 2014 4:18am EDT

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TOKYO, Sept 5 (Reuters) - The operator of the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant said on Friday it won't appeal against a court ruling that it was responsible for the suicide of a woman who became depressed after the 2011 disaster, adding it would pay $465,400 in compensation.

Last week's surprise ruling - and Tepco's decision not to appeal against it - could set a precedent for more claims for compensation in connection with the triple nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant north of Tokyo, which forced more than 150,000 people from their homes. About a third of them are still in temporary housing.

"We are not going to appeal the decision and we will pay compensation in line with what was ordered in court," said Nobuyuki Kawashima, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc , the operator of the wrecked plant.

The lawsuit by Mikio Watanabe blamed the operator of the plant for the July 2011 death of his wife, Hamako, 58, who doused herself in kerosene and set herself on fire after falling into depression.

The couple was forced to flee their home in the town of Yamakiya, 50 km (30 miles) away, after the plant was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, spewing radiation into the air.

The court ruling accepted Watanabe's contention that the nuclear disaster contributed to his wife's suicide.

Neither Watanabe nor the lawyer who represented him in court was immediately available for comment.

The decision is the latest blow for the utility, which was bailed out with taxpayer funds in 2012 and had already expected to spend more than $48 billion in compensation for the disaster at its plant, on top of tens of billions or more in cleanup and decommissioning costs.

On Aug. 26, the district court in Fukushima ordered Tokyo Electric to pay 49 million yen ($465,400) in compensation to Watanabe, who had sought about 91 million yen in damages.

The nationalised utility has settled a number of suicide-related claims through a government dispute-resolution system, but it has declined to say how many or give details of how much it has paid. ($1 = 105.28 yen) (Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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