Government sources said that Japan may have to pay agricultural workers and business enterprises living close to the crippled Fukushima I nuclear power station for the losses the plant had incurred after its devastation from the historic earthquake and tsunamis two weeks ago that had so far left close to 10,000 deaths, over 16,500 missing and displaced over 260,000 people.
The 11 March quake may prove to be the most expensive natural disaster ever recorded in history and was tagged at US$309 billion according to new estimates.
The Yomiuri Shimbun said that the people in the nearby areas who were affected by the damages caused by the nuclear reactor leaks could be compensated by the Japanese government between US$1.5 billion and US$3 billion (120 billion yen and 240 billion yen) according to the Compensation for Nuclear Damages Law that stipulates "the accountability of nuclear power plant operators when accidents occur."
It was also said that it is possible the State will bear the amount the plant operator will be unable to pay.
The law also adds that the nuclear plant operator, which in this case is the Tokyo Electric Co. (TEPCO), should, in principle, be obliged to cover for the damages that are caused by the nuclear accident at their plants.
For natural disasters like quakes and tsunami waves, the government is responsible to pay to as much as US$1.5 billion (120 billion yen) for the damages caused by each nuclear plant.
The State may have to shell out up to US$3 billion (240 billion yen) for the damages brought about by the paralyzed Fukushima I and II plants.
The government stresses that the law which says "the State should pay for all losses caused by social unrest or abnormally large natural disasters," does not apply in this case. The radiation leak caused by the temblor is the responsibility of TEPCO.
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Yoshiaki Takaki said, "TEPCO should take primary responsibility [for the accident]. But in addition, the government will have to help the victims."
The total amount that may have to be paid could surpass US$12 billion (one trillion yen).
Earlier, the public has been warned against giving tap water to infants in Tokyo due to high levels of radioactive iodine.
Milk and 25 kinds of vegetables produced in the areas near the power plant were found to be contaminated by nuclear material, in a report by The Japan Times.
Details of this report here.