It's not quite a 180-degree turn from the position taken by the TEPCO president only days before the change, but still an unpleasant and frustrating turn for people affected by the nuclear disaster.
On January 10, 2013, this is what Naomi Hirose, president of TEPCO, said to Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima Prefecture, according to Mainichi Shinbun (1/10/2013; part):
Naomi Hirose, President of TEPCO definitely said on January 10 for the first time that TEPCO had "no intention of claiming its right to legal statute of limitations (3 years)" regarding the compensation to damages arising from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.
President Hirose and Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe visited with Governor Yuhei Sato at the Fukushima Prefectural government office on January 10. Mr. Hirose made specific remarks for the first time regarding the issue, saying "We have no intention at all (to claim our right to statute of limitations). It is a legal problem, but we would like to come up with something concrete." Governor Sato demanded that TEPCO fully compensate the victims.
According to the Article 724 of the Civil Code, one loses the right to compensation unless one files a claim for damages within 3 years of first becoming aware of the damages from offense by others. The purpose of this article is to quickly establish relations of right. Governor Sato had asked TEPCO not to assert its claim to statute of limitations.
After the meeting, Mr. Hirose said to the press, "We're discussing the measures, and I hope to announce them soon. We are not going to assert our claim to statute of limitations in lawsuits."
There are many who haven't even received the applications yet. For those who have received the applications, the application is such a legal mumbo jumbo that many have simply given up.
Then on January 16, six days later, TEPCO revealed their plan. Instead of statute of limitations as stipulated by the Civil Code, the company will use a modified statute of limitations - 3 years from the time when the application forms are received by people affected by the accident.
As Nikkei Shinbun reported (1/16/2013; part):
TEPCO and Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund has decided that the period to claim damages from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident will be three years from the date when people affected by the accident receive their application documents. It has been pointed out that the three-year statute of limitations from the start of the accident may happen, but the new plan will move the date further back from which to count three years so that people affected by the accident are able to receive compensations.
The plan is part of the change request for the "Comprehensive Special Business Plan" that TEPCO submitted to Toshimitsu Motegi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, on January 15.
So it's a done deal. The plan is submitted, not because the plan will be analyzed or discussed by the government but as the last formality after everything in the plan has been already informally discussed and agreed upon by all the parties involved, in this case the national government and TEPCO (which are one and the same).
Very clever of them. The management of Chisso should have used the same ruse.
TEPCO's Hirose by the way holds an MBA from Yale University. Minister Motegi is a former McKinsey consultant. They probably understand each other very well.