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“This is just a beginning. The accident has not ended. We will continue to ask the government and TEPCO to fully compensate evacuees.”

Nearly 140,000 people are still living in shelters after losing their homes or being advised to evacuate because of concerns about radiation.

Japanese law calls for the government to pay up to 240 billion yen ($2.9 billion ) in compensation for nuclear accidents, and apart from TEPCO’s provisional payment to evacuees, billions more are likely to be paid to fisherman, farmers and others who have suffered losses.

The law exempts the operator when the accidents are “caused by a grave natural disaster of an exceptional character, or by an insurrection.” However, it would be politically untenable for TEPCO to cite the tsunami as a rationale for not paying damages, given the complex nature of the problems that have unfolded at the plant, and questions over its preparedness, among other issues.

It is unclear whether TEPCO is likely to face lawsuits going forward. Most Japanese prefer to avoid the cost and publicity of going to the courts for redress, and the country relies heavily on nonjudicial resolution of disputes.

With the northeastern coast still a wreck, at least one poll shows public support for increasing taxes to pay for disaster recovery.

According to a random telephone poll of 1,036 people by the Yomiuri Shimbun over April 1-3, some 60 percent of respondents said they would support higher taxes for recovery efforts. The paper didn’t give a margin of error, but a poll of that size would have a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano was noncommittal about such a tax when asked, but didn’t rule it out.

“The government needs to consider various measures” for funding the rebuilding, he said. “It would be up the Cabinet and parliament to make a responsible, final decision,” he said.


Associated Press writers Elaine Kurtenbach, Ryan Nakashima and Noriko Kitano in Tokyo contributed to this report.