Tokyo – The Tokyo Electric Power Company announced plans on Friday to distribute 50 billion yen, or $600 million, in initial payments to 50,000 people evacuated because of the accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as technicians continued to struggle to repair cooling and electrical systems at the damaged reactors.
Masatake Shimizu, the company’s president, said that single-person households would receive about $9,000 and larger households would receive about $12,000. Only people who live in a radius of 19 miles of the damaged power plant that was initially evacuated will be eligible for the payments.
The government ordered on Monday the evacuation in the coming month of five more communities that lie farther from the stricken power plant but received higher levels of radiation than elsewhere because of wind and rain patterns. Once residents of these communities have been certified by the government as also qualifying as victims of a nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric Power will also make the same payments to them, Mr. Shimizu said; power company officials had no immediate statistic for how many more people might qualify from these communities.
The government said that Tokyo Electric Power acted after a request from Banri Kaieda, the minister of economy, trade and industry. The utility’s full liability for the nuclear accident has not yet been established and will depend heavily on whether the government characterizes the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 as an exceptional event that could not have been readily anticipated.
No decision has been made yet on possible compensation to farmers and fishermen who may have lost their livelihoods at least temporarily because of the nuclear accident.
Repair efforts continued slowly at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. An announcement late Thursday of sharply rising temperatures at the base of Reactor No. 3 had provoked brief concern, but regulators said on Friday morning that the readings appeared to have come from a malfunctioning thermometer.
In another sign of a return to normality, Tokyo Disneyland reopened with limited hours on Friday, after closing a month ago to conduct repairs and conserve electricity. Large throngs showed up outside the amusement park’s gates before opening time as thousands vied to be among the first to return to the site.
The United States government, saying the situation at Fukushima had become less perilous, lifted its travel warning for Tokyo and said it would allow dependents of government employees to return to Japan.
The travel alert issued by the State Department on Friday said that although the situation at the nuclear plant “remains serious and dynamic,” the health risks in areas outside the 50-mile evacuation zone recommended by the American government “are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens.” It said that even in the event of an unexpected disruption at the plant, harmful exposures to people beyond 50 miles were “highly unlikely.”
The State Department said the new policy was based on the assessment of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Energy Department and the unanimous opinion of American scientific experts on the ground in Japan. It comes two days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to visit Japan in what is described as a show of support for the Japanese people.
The State Department had authorized the voluntary departure of dependents of government employees in Tokyo and some other areas on March 16 and had advised American citizens to defer nonessential travel to the Tokyo area and to northeastern Japan, where the nuclear plant is located.
In its new alert, the State Department said that the situation at the plant “is dramatically different today than it was on March 16, when we saw significant ongoing releases of radioactivity, the loss of effective means to cool the reactor cores and spent fuel, the absence of outside power or fresh water supply for emergency management, and considerable uncertainty about the condition of the site.”
Today, it said, the efforts to cool the reactors and spent fuel are “ongoing and successful,” power and water are partly or fully restored, and planning has begun to control radioactive contamination and mitigate future dangers. It said the government’s coordination with the Japanese was “regular and productive and we have a greatly increased capacity to measure and analyze risks.”
Moshe Komata and Kantaro Suzuki contributed reporting.
This article “Tokyo Power to Compensate 50,000 Evacuees” originally appeared at The New York Times.
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