Fukushima nuclear disaster: former Tepco executives go on trial

Three men plead not guilty to professional negligence in the only criminal action targeting officials since the triple meltdown

2921From left, former Tepco executives Tsunehisa Katsumata, Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto arriving at court in Tokyo on Friday.

 

Three former executives with the operator of the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have pleaded not guilty to charges of professional negligence, in the only criminal action targeting officials since the triple meltdown more than six years ago.

In the first hearing of the trial at Tokyo district court on Friday, Tsunehisa Katsumata, who was chairman of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) at the time of the disaster, and two other former executives argued they could not have foreseen a tsunami of the size that knocked out the plant’s backup cooling system, triggering a meltdown in three reactors.

I apologise for the tremendous trouble to the residents in the area and around the country because of the serious accident that caused the release of radioactive materials,” Katsumata said, bowing slightly.

Prosecutors alleged that the 77-year-old, along with his co-defendants, Sakae Muto, 67, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71 – both former Tepco vice-presidents – had been shown data that anticipated a tsunami of more than 10 metres in height that could cause a power outage and other serious consequences.
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Activists protest against Tepco on Friday.

 

A report by a government panel said Tepco simulated the impact of a tsunami on the plant in 2008 and concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 metres (52 feet) could hit the plant if a magnitude-8.3 quake occurred off the coast of Fukushima. Executives at the company allegedly ignored the internal study.

The three men – charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury – have since retired from Tepco.

The company, which faces a multibillion-dollar bill for decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi, is not a defendant in the trial. If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to 1m yen (£7,000).

Although there are no records of anyone dying as a result of exposure to radiation from the plant, prosecutors alleged the executives were responsible for the deaths of 40 elderly people who were evacuated from a hospital near the plant.

The Fukushima plant had a meltdown after the tsunami, triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake, hit the plant on the afternoon of 11 March 2011.

The tsunami killed almost 19,000 people along the north-east coast of Japan and forced more than 150,000 others living near the plant to flee radiation. Some of the evacuated neighbourhoods are still deemed too dangerous for former residents to return to.

They continued running the reactors without taking any measures whatsoever,” the prosecutor said. “If they had fulfilled their safety responsibilities, the accident would never have occurred.”

Muto challenged the allegation by the prosecution that he and the other defendants failed to take sufficient preventative measures despite being aware of the risk of a powerful tsunami more than two years before the disaster.

When I recall that time, I still think it was impossible to anticipate an accident like that,” he said. “I believe I have no criminal responsibility over the accident.”

Investigations into the accident have been highly critical of the lax safety culture at Tepco and poor oversight by industry regulators. Prosecutors considered the case twice, and dropped it both times, but a citizens’ judicial panel overrode their decision and indicted the former executives.

Outside the court, Ruiko Muto, a Fukushima resident and head of the group of plaintiffs, said: “Since the accident, nobody has been held responsible nor has it been made clear why it happened. Many people have suffered badly in ways that changed their lives. We want these men to realise how many people are feeling sadness and anger.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/30/fukushima-nuclear-crisis-tepco-criminal-trial-japan

Three former TEPCO execs plead not guilty

 

Three former executives of the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have pleaded not guilty over the March 2011 accident.

Nuclear meltdowns occurred at the plant after it was hit by a giant earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The defendants are former Tokyo Electric Power Company Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former Vice Presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto.

They are accused of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of 44 people, including hospital patients forced to stay at evacuation shelters for a long period.

At the start of the trial at the Tokyo District Court on Friday, Katsumata apologized for the serious accident, and causing a great nuisance and concern.

But he said it was impossible to predict the tsunami, and the nuclear accident that followed, at the time.

Takekuro and Muto also offered apologies but pleaded not guilty.

Points of contention will likely include whether the defendants were able to predict that a huge tsunami would hit the plant, and whether the accident could have been prevented if proper steps had been in place.

This is the first trial concerning criminal responsibility for an accident at a nuclear power plant.

Public prosecutors decided not to file charges against the 3 former executives in 2013. But they were indicted in February last year by court-appointed lawyers in line with the decision by a prosecution inquest panel of randomly selected citizens.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170630_16/

Court finds ex-environment ministry official Yuji Suzuki guilty of taking bribes

n-fukbribe-a-20170630-870x580.jpgAn excavator sits among bags of nuclear waste in the town of Tomioka near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2016.

 

FUKUSHIMA – The Fukushima District Court on Thursday sentenced a former Environment Ministry official to one year in prison, suspended for three years, for accepting bribes to help a company win a decontamination project in Fukushima Prefecture.

The court also ordered 57-year-old Yuji Suzuki, who formerly worked at a branch of the ministry’s environment regeneration office in Fukushima, to pay a fine of ¥230,000.

Presiding Judge Shoji Miyata said that with people aiming for a swift recovery from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, rapid and secure implementation of decontamination work was strongly anticipated in areas tainted by radioactive substances from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Miyata criticized Suzuki, saying that the fact that he betrayed those expectations “cannot be overlooked” and that the social impact of his actions was “not insignificant.”

As for the reason for the suspended sentence, Miyata said Suzuki was “showing regret.”

According to the ruling, Suzuki helped a civil engineering and construction company based in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, join a decontamination project in the Fukushima town of Namie as a subcontractor of a consortium.

In return, Suzuki received ¥25,000 in cash and benefits worth ¥206,000 in the form of dining and accommodation between September 2015 and June 2016.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/29/national/crime-legal/court-finds-ex-environment-ministry-official-guilty-taking-bribes/

Fukushima ice wall nears completion

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An underground ice wall being built to keep groundwater from entering the crippled nuclear reactor buildings in Fukushima is expected to be completed soon.

Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are circulating coolant in pipes buried around the buildings to make the 1.5 kilometer-long barrier.

The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, hopes to keep groundwater from being contaminated with radioactive substances.

The utility has so far left part of the wall unfrozen, due to fears that freezing the entire area could lead to a sharp drop in groundwater levels outside the reactor buildings, which could cause the tainted water to leak out.

On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority gave basic approval for the utility’s plan to freeze a 7 meter-wide section that remains on the mountain side.

Utility officials have explained to authority members that the groundwater level won’t plunge and that they are prepared for such an emergency.

TEPCO says that as soon as it gets official approval it will start freezing the remaining section of the wall. It has been functioning for about 15 months.

The daily amount of groundwater flowing into the buildings is now about 100 tons, compared with some 400 tons per day at the start of the operation.

The utility says the completion of the ice wall will further reduce the amount. The regulators plan to monitor the effects of the barrier after it is completed.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170628_30/

Former Nuclear Power Plant Executives to Stand Trial for the Fukushima Disaster and the Death of Over 40 People

“If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to ¥1 million ($9,000)”

n-tepcotrial-a-20170629-870x435.jpgThis combination of pictures shows (from left) former Tokyo Electric Power Co. chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former vice presidents of the company Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto.

 

Fukushima Disaster: Former Nuclear Power Plant Executives to Stand Trial for Deaths of Over 40 People

Three former executives at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) are due to stand trial at Tokyo District Court Friday, in connection with the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. 

The trio face criminal charges following three nuclear meltdowns after the emergency generators needed to cool the nuclear reactors malfunctioned following a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan. 

The ensuing nuclear catastrophe—the biggest since Chernobyl in 1986—led thousands of people to flee their homes and resulted in the death of more than 40 hospitalized patients who were evacuated from the Fukushima area, in addition to the estimated 22,000 people killed or unaccounted for after the country’s largest earthquake.

The hearing comes one year after former TEPCO chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and the two former vice presidents Sakae Muto 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71 were charged with professional negligence leading to injury or death. They have all pleaded not guilty ahead of the trial.

We hope the trial will shed light on the responsibility for this accident. The accident hasn’t been resolved. There is nuclear waste from the cleanup efforts everywhere in Fukushima, and there are still many unresolved problems,” Ruiko Muto, who heads the group that pushed for the trial, told The Japan Times.

In 2008, TEPCO conducted an internal study, simulating the events of a 52-foot-high wave and a 8.3 magnitude quake, The Japan Times reported.  The extent of the damage suggested that executives ignored the findings, as the wave that hit the nuclear plant reached 45 feet.

Following the disaster, TEPCO was required to pump tons of water into the plant to cool the reactors. The government spent $15 billion collecting radioactive topsoil from the site, and residents are now, after six years, being encouraged to return home.

Decommissioning the power plant is expected to take four decades. In February, sievert readings of 530 Sv were recorded in reactor No. 2: In context, 1 Sv is enough to cause radiation sickness, while 5 Sv would kill half those exposed after one month.

http://www.newsweek.com/fukushima-disaster-former-nuclear-power-plant-executives-stand-trial-deaths-629675

Ex-Tepco execs to go on trial over Fukushima disaster

Three former Tokyo Electric Power Co. executives are set to stand trial this week on the only criminal charges laid in connection to the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, as thousands remain unable to return to their homes near the shuttered facility.

The hearing on Friday comes more than a year after ex-Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71, were formally charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

The tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant set off the worst nuclear accident since 1986’s Chernobyl incident.

We hope the trial will shed light on where the responsibility for this accident … lies,” Ruiko Muto, who heads a group that pushed for the trial, said. “The accident hasn’t been resolved. There is nuclear waste from the cleanup efforts everywhere in Fukushima and there are still many unresolved problems.”

The trial follows a prolonged battle over whether or not to indict the Tepco executives.

Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.

But a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in 2015 — for the second time since the accident — that the trio should be put on trial.

That decision compelled prosecutors to press on with the criminal case.

We want a verdict as soon as possible,” Muto said. “Some victims of this tragedy have died without seeing the start of the trial.”

If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to ¥1 million ($9,000).

Tepco declined to comment on the trial, saying the men “have already left the company.”

The three are expected to plead not guilty, and argue it was impossible to have predicted the size of the massive tsunami that slammed into the country’s northeast coast following a huge undersea earthquake.

However, a 2011 government panel report said Tepco simulated the impact of a tsunami on the plant in 2008 and concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 meters (52 feet) could hit the plant if a magnitude 8.3 quake occurred off the coast of Fukushima.

Executives at the company — which is facing huge cleanup and liability costs — allegedly ignored the internal study.

Waves as high as 14 meters swamped the reactors’ cooling systems in March 2011.

Although the natural disaster left some 18,500 people dead or missing, technically the Fukushima meltdown itself is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone.

The charges against the executives are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalized patients who were hastily evacuated from the Fukushima area and later died.

Around a dozen others — including Tepco employees and members of Self-Defense Forces — were injured during the accident.

The disaster forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes near the plant. Many are still living in other parts of the country, unable or unwilling to go back home, as fears over radiation persist.

A 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said misguided faith in the complete safety of atomic power was a key factor in the Fukushima accident.

It pointed to flaws in disaster preparedness and in plant design, along with unclear responsibilities among regulators.

A parliamentary report compiled a year after the disaster also said Fukushima was a man-made disaster caused by a culture of “reflexive obedience.”

An angry public pointed to cozy ties between the government, regulators and nuclear operators as the reason for the lack of criminal charges.

Campaigners have called for about three-dozen company officials to be held accountable for their failure to properly protect the site against a tsunami.

The accident forced the shutdowns of dozens of reactors across the nation, with just a handful online more than six years later.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and utility companies are pushing to get reactors back in operation, but they face widespread opposition as anti-nuclear sentiment remains high.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/28/national/crime-legal/ex-tepco-execs-go-trial-fukushima-disaster/#.WVR_apLyjcs

 

Japan: Ex-bosses to go on trial over Fukushima disaster

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TOKYO: Three former executives at Fukushima‘s operator stand trial this week on the only criminal charges laid in the 2011 disaster, as thousands remain unable to return to homes near the shuttered nuclear plant.

The hearing on Friday comes more than a year after ex-Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and former vice-presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71, were formally charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

The indictments are the first — and only — criminal charges stemming from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

“We hope the trial will shed light on where the responsibility for this accident…lies,” Ruiko Muto, who heads a group that pushed for the trial, told AFP.

“The accident hasn’t been resolved. There is nuclear waste from the cleanup efforts everywhere in Fukushima and there are still many unresolved problems,” she said.

The trial follows a battle over whether or not to indict the Tepco executives.

Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges against the men, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.

But a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in 2015 — for the second time since the accident — that the trio should be put on trial.

That decision compelled prosecutors to press on with the criminal case under Japanese law.

“We want a verdict as soon as possible,” Muto said.

“Some victims of this tragedy have died without seeing the start of the trial.”

If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to one million yen ($9,000).

Tepco declined to comment on the trial, saying the men “have already left the company”.

The three are reportedly expected to plead not guilty, and argue it was impossible to have predicted the size of the massive tsunami that slammed into Japan‘s northeast coast following a huge undersea earthquake.

However, a 2011 government panel report said Tepco simulated the impact of a tsunami on the plant in 2008 and concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 metres (52 feet) could hit the plant if a magnitude-8.3 quake occurred off the coast of Fukushima.

Executives at the company — which is facing huge clean-up and liability costs — allegedly ignored the internal study.

Waves as high as 14 metres swamped the reactors’ cooling systems in March 2011.

Although the quake-tsunami disaster left some 18,500 people dead or missing, the Fukushima accident itself is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone.

The charges against the executives are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalised patients who were hastily evacuated from the Fukushima area and later died.

Around a dozen others — including Tepco employees and members of Japan’s Self Defense Forces — were injured during the accident.

The disaster forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes near the plant. Many are still living in other parts of Japan, unable or unwilling to go back home, as fears over radiation persist.

A 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said a misguided faith in the complete safety of atomic power was a key factor in the Fukushima accident.

It pointed to weaknesses in disaster preparedness and in plant design, along with unclear responsibilities among regulators.

A parliamentary report compiled a year after the disaster also said Fukushima was a man-made disaster caused by Japan’s culture of “reflexive obedience”.


An angry public pointed to cosy ties among the government, regulators and nuclear operators for the lack of criminal charges.


Campaigners have called for about three dozen company officials to be held accountable for their failure properly to protect the site against a tsunami.


The accident forced the shutdown of dozens of reactors across Japan, with just a handful online more than six years later.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and utility companies are pushing to get reactors back in operation, but anti-nuclear sentiment remains high and there is widespread opposition to the idea.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/japan-ex-bosses-to-go-on-trial-over-fukushima-disaster/articleshow/59347696.cms?TOI_browsernotification=true

 

For Tepco’s new president the town of Futaba does not belong to the No-Go Zone

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The new president of Tepco, Tomoaki Kobayakawa, did not even know that the city of Futaba is still part of the evacuated No-Go Zone, a forbidden zone to enter, except for a part of the town for short time visits only during the day.


Quite shameful and irresponsible from a man presiding the company which caused the nuclear disater responsible for the still unfortunate present situation of thousands of evacuees.