(NaturalNews) Many of the power plant workers and their families who were evacuated after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and later given compensation by the utility for their ongoing hardships, are now being told that they have to return the money, according to new reports. The Japanese news agency Mainichi explains that the Tokyo Electric Power Company, also known as TEPCO, has already issued notices to a handful of families demanding that salary money be returned, a major slap in the face to these suffering individuals.
One household reportedly received a letter from TEPCO demanding the return of more than 30 million yen, which is the U.S. equivalent of about $290,000. This is money that was awarded to the family in accordance with guidelines issued by the Japanese government following the disaster, which mandate that TEPCO has to compensate evacuees for pain and suffering, including the loss of their belongings and quality of life.
TEPCO has been mostly faithful in paying out what is due under the law, but now the utility is trying to recoup some of these disbursements using the excuse that the evacuation period to be covered ended when some families relocated to new areas. The families being urged to return the money they received relocated from the area not long after the disaster, claims TEPCO, which means that they continued to receive compensation outside the evacuation period.
"We respond to demands for compensation from our employees as well as their families in an appropriate manner," stated an official from TEPCO's public relations department when asked for comment.
But the families obviously do not agree. One family that received more than 20 million yen, or about $193,000, from TEPCO following the disaster is now being asked to return all of it, even though the money was needed to purchase new appliances and furniture. And the family that received upwards of 30 million yen in a lump-sum payment is now being asked to return all of it, as well as all annuity disbursements given before the sum.
"TEPCO's attitude to require families of employees to tolerate hardship is impermissible," stated Tsuyoshi Kamata, a lawyer now representing the families of the affected TEPCO employees, to Mainichi. "The company needs to improve itself."
TEPCO to change its name to continue raking in new profits
At the same time, TEPCO is attempting to rebrand itself and preserve its ability to sell electricity and earn new profits. Mainichi reports that TEPCO will soon be getting a name change, which the company hopes will pave new avenues for selling power outside of its current service area, and thus boost company profits.
"In its Comprehensive Special Business Plan, TEPCO regarded a project to retail electricity in service areas of other utility firms as a pillar of its measures to boost its earnings," explains a recent Mainichi report. "TEPCO will organize an in-house structure and start the new business operation after deciding a new brand name in fiscal 2014."
Initially, TEPCO plans to purchase electricity from other power utilities and sell it to large-scale customers by the end of 2014. In the long run, the company hopes to construct even more nuclear power stations outside of its current service area and begin delivering power directly, a proposal that company officials claim is necessary to continue funding cleanup efforts related to the ongoing Fukushima disaster.
As far as TEPCO's attempts to get the money that it already paid out to affected employees returned, one ENENews.com commenter believes that it is directly related to why the company is trying to rebrand itself: TEPCO is on the verge of complete bankruptcy.
"TEPCO (actually the Japanese government) is desperate to 'claw back' monies any way possible from helpless collateral victims in an attempt to show some kind of profit on the bottom line," the commenter writes.