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Saturday, 26 July 2014

The workings of the ADR system (alternative dispute resolution )

News Navigator: What is the alternative dispute resolution for Fukushima disaster?

The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about the "alternative dispute resolution (ADR)" system for victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Question: How does the ADR work for nuclear crisis victims?
Answer: ADR was established in August 2011 for victims of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster as an out-of-court settlement system for cases where the victims and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) could not reach an agreement on the amount of compensation.

Q: Why was such a system established?
A: When disputes cannot be resolved between concerned parties, they usually bring their cases to court. However, the parties would have to pay for their lawyers, and trials take time. For cases stemming from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, simple ways to resolve conflicts between the victims and TEPCO were necessary as the number of affected people was large.
The ADR system has been adopted in different fields to settle cases such as medical mistakes and automobile accidents. Trials can take several years until courts reach a ruling, but Fukushima nuclear disaster cases dealt under the ADR system have reached settlements in about six months on average. There is no fee for victims to bring their cases to the ADR.

Q: How do victims use the ADR system?
A: They first put forward their case to the government-backed Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center with evidence for their claim. The center then assigns staff with lawyer qualifications to deal with the case. These lawyers manage evidence submitted by the victims as well as TEPCO and prepare proposals for settlements.

Q: Have all the cases in the ADR system for nuclear disaster reached agreement?
A: No. For example, the nuclear dispute resolution center has closed over 30 cases brought by TEPCO employees and their families without settlement because the plant operator refused the settlement proposals. Some of these victims have brought their cases to courts.
In addition, TEPCO has refused to pay compensation for some 15,000 victims in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, after the center presented settlement proposals in favor of the victims. Mediators from the center have been trying to persuade TEPCO into agreeing with the settlement.
Meanwhile, some criticize that the center is trying to settle cases quickly by making settlement proposals that are beneficial to TEPCO. In cases of the victims' death during evacuation, for example, the company sets the causal relationship between these deaths and the nuclear disaster at 50 percent in nearly every instance, and has accordingly cut the proposed compensation amount to below 9 million yen, far less than what the victims had asked for.
It is problematic that the government-backed organization has not revealed its operational measures, and experts have urged the center to disclose its yardstick and calculation methods in finalizing the amount of compensation.

(Answers by Hiroyuki Takashima, Tokyo City News Department)
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