Court Decision: Small Compensation for Voluntary Evacuees

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Voluntary evacuees granted only small awards in Fukushima nuke disaster damage case

While the March 17 Maebashi District Court ruling acknowledged that both the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are liable for the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, it dealt a harsh blow to those who voluntarily evacuated their Fukushima Prefecture homes in the wake of the meltdowns.
The court awarded a total of 38.55 million yen in damages to 62 of the 137 plaintiffs who fled from Fukushima Prefecture to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere — about one-fortieth of the complainants’ total compensation demand of approximately 1.5 billion yen. This was because the court acknowledged to some extent the rationale behind the government-set “interim guidelines” for TEPCO’s compensation payment standards. The court rejected claims made by over half of the plaintiffs, saying that the amount of compensation they are entitled to does not exceed that which has already been paid by TEPCO.

The interim guidelines were set by the education ministry’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation in August 2011 to ensure swift compensation to cover damages common to many residents in the nuclear disaster-hit areas. Based on the guidelines, TEPCO set up standards for compensation payments, such as a monthly payment of 100,000 yen per person for those from evacuation zones and, as a rule, one-off payments of 80,000 yen for each voluntary evacuee. Voluntary evacuees in nuclear disaster class-action suits across the country are arguing that 80,000 yen is too small an amount, considering that leaving Fukushima Prefecture was a reasonable decision.

Some experts have criticized the district court decision, saying that it only confirmed the legitimacy of the interim guidelines. At the same time, the ruling was based on the court’s own calculation for deciding the compensation amount for each plaintiff, which set five “emotional distress” categories to be considered including the feeling of losing one’s hometown.

Nevertheless, the compensation amounts in the ruling differed greatly between the plaintiffs from evacuation zones and voluntary evacuees. Nineteen plaintiffs who used to live in areas under evacuation orders were awarded compensation payments of between 750,000 yen and 3.5 million yen each, while 43 voluntary evacuees were granted awards of between 70,000 yen and 730,000 yen.

One of the plaintiffs who had voluntarily left the city of Iwaki was awarded about 200,000 yen in damages for the 10-day period right after the March 2011 meltdowns. However, the ruling denied that the same woman’s decision to flee Fukushima Prefecture again two months after the meltdowns was rational, saying that high radiation doses were not detected in Iwaki and no other particularly concerning circumstances were present.

Attorney Tsutomu Yonekura of the national liaison association of lawyers representing Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees said of the Maebashi District Court ruling, “The amount of compensation provided for in the ruling remains at the same level as that set in the interim guidelines, even though the court claimed to have independently calculated the compensation payments. It’s not enough as judicial redress.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170318/p2a/00m/0na/010000c

 

Fukushima nuke disaster evacuees disappointed by court’s compensation award

Fukushima Prefecture evacuees in a class action suit over the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster were disappointed by the 38.55 million yen in total compensation awarded on March 17 by the Maebashi District Court, as the amount was just one-fortieth what they had been seeking.
“I was expecting to hear a ruling that would support us more,” one of the plaintiffs said after the verdict, which came 3 1/2 years after they filed the suit and six years after the disaster’s onset.

“We have made the court recognize the responsibility of the central government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). I am honestly happy about that,” plaintiff Sugie Tanji, 60, said to a gathering following the ruling. However, she continued, “The past six years was filled with many hardships. I wonder if I can convince myself to accept the ruling…”

Tanji was a resident of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture. Her 63-year-old husband Mikio ran a repair business, but orders plunged following the No. 1 plant meltdowns. Four months later, the couple voluntarily evacuated to Gunma Prefecture.

Although Tanji felt guilty for leaving fellow residents behind, she took part in anti-nuclear power rallies and demonstrations in Gunma Prefecture and joined the class action suit, believing that there must never be another nuclear disaster.

Of the 137 plaintiffs from 45 households, representatives of almost all the households appeared in court, testifying to the agony of living as evacuees and expressing their anger toward TEPCO and the central government. However, only a few of them have made their names public out of concern for possible discrimination against their children and negative effects on their jobs. Tanji herself recalls being told, “You can get money if you go to court, can’t you?”

Under government guidelines, those who evacuated voluntarily are entitled to only 80,000 yen in consolation money from TEPCO, including living expenses. The plaintiffs thought the amount was far too small considering the pain of losing their hometowns. However, only 62 of the 137 plaintiffs were awarded compensation.

“I was expecting a warmer ruling,” said a woman in her 50s who sat in on the March 17 hearing clad in mourning attire. She was working part-time for a company in Iwaki, but was fired after the nuclear disaster impacted the firm’s business performance.

This and radiation exposure fears prompted her and her husband to evacuate to Gunma Prefecture two months later. Her husband, however, developed a malignant brain tumor the following year, after the couple settled into an apartment that the Gunma Prefectural Government had rented for evacuees. Her husband died in the fall of 2014 at age 52.

The woman says she still doesn’t feel like she can start working and subsists on her savings and survivor’s pension. At the end of March, the Fukushima Prefectural Government is set to terminate its housing subsidies for voluntary evacuees. For her, the compensation awarded by the Maebashi District Court was “unimaginably low.”

“I can’t report the ruling to my husband,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170318/p2a/00m/0na/017000c

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Court Ruling: Gov’t and Tepco Put Money Before Safety

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Gov’t and TEPCO put money before safety at Fukushima nuclear plant: court ruling

The Maebashi District Court ordered the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay damages in a class action lawsuit brought by Fukushima Prefecture residents who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. However, the amount was much smaller than what the plaintiffs had demanded, thereby failing to provide nuclear crisis victims the relief they seek.
On March 17, the Maebashi District Court recognized the responsibility of both the central government and TEPCO, operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. It stated that TEPCO should have been aware that the Fukushima plant could be hit by tsunami approximately nine years prior to the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and that the state failed to order TEPCO to take appropriate anti-tsunami measures despite having the regulatory authority to do so.

“That the court recognized the central government’s liability for compensation is very significant,” the plaintiffs’ lead counsel Katsuyoshi Suzuki said at a rally that was held in Maebashi following the ruling. “It is also extremely important that the court recognized that the state was as culpable as TEPCO.”

The plaintiffs argued that TEPCO could have predicted a massive tsunami and taken measures to prevent a nuclear crisis. They also argued that the government was responsible for promoting the development and use of nuclear power. In its ruling, the court harshly criticized TEPCO, taking into account the far-reaching impacts and dangers of the ongoing nuclear disaster. “The utility must maintain a safety-first policy, but it appears to have placed priority on cost cutting,” the ruling said.

In July 2002, the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion pointed out the possibility that an approximately magnitude 8 earthquake could occur in the Japan Trench, part of which runs along the ocean floor off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. Based on this “long-term evaluation,” TEPCO estimated in 2008 that tsunami with a maximum height of 15.7 meters could hit its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, yet no safety measures based on this estimate were taken.

Instead, TEPCO used a tsunami assessment formula created by the Japan Society of Civil Engineers (JSCE), comprising university professors and power company researchers, which put the height of tsunami that could potentially hit the nuclear plant at a mere 6.1 meters. The tsunami that slammed into the plant on March 11, 2011 hit a maximum height of 15.5 meters.

The Maebashi court took issue with the fact that although TEPCO could have instituted relatively easy anti-tsunami measures, such as relocating its emergency power source to higher ground, it had failed to do so. The Atomic Energy Damage Compensation Law — which stipulates that the business operator, regardless of whether or not they were negligent, must pay damages in the case of a nuclear disaster — was applied to reach the decision. However, the court rejected the claim for compensation based on illegal action under the Civil Code.

The ruling also went into detail regarding the government’s responsibility. In September 2006, the now defunct Nuclear Safety Committee (NSC) laid down new earthquake-resistance standards, and the government instructed TEPCO and other utilities to assess whether their nuclear power plants met the new criteria. However, in August 2007, TEPCO submitted a mid-term report to the government that did not include any anti-tsunami measures. The Maebashi District Court’s ruling pointed out that the government subsequently violated the law by not ordering TEPCO to implement anti-tsunami measures. It also said, “The state was in a position to take the initiative to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and was strongly expected to appropriately exercise its regulatory authority to prevent nuclear disasters.”

Much of the evidence and issues that were reviewed by the court are the same as those being reviewed in similar class-action lawsuits and the criminal trials of former TEPCO executives, whose pretrial conference procedures are to be held March 29.

The Maebashi ruling “made clear the government’s negligence in postponing checks on whether new quake-resilience standards were being met,” says attorney Yuichi Kaido, who will represent the victims in the upcoming criminal trial. “That matches our claims. The ruling was groundbreaking, and it will create a tide that will influence other court cases.”

Because there are many other similar cases being fought in courts nationwide, it is highly likely that the dispute will continue in an appeal trial in the Tokyo High Court. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference on March 17, “We will look closely at the content of the ruling, and deliberate a response from there,” hinting that the government will look to appeal.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170318/p2a/00m/0na/009000c

 

Ruling on Fukushima nuclear crisis a grave admonition of gov’t

In a class action suit filed by residents of Fukushima Prefecture who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere due to the ongoing Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, the Maebashi District Court ordered both the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and the central government to pay 62 residents a total of 38.55 million yen. It marked the first time that the judiciary recognized the state’s responsibility for negligence in the nuclear disaster.
The court ruling should be seen as admonition from the judiciary that the state has a grave responsibility over its nuclear power policy.

The main focus of the case was on whether TEPCO had been able to predict the size of the tsunami that struck the plant on March 11, 2011, and whether the state should have exercised its regulatory authority to make TEPCO implement necessary safety measures.

The plaintiffs focused on a long-term assessment on earthquakes, which the government released in 2002, as evidence to show that TEPCO had been able to predict a tsunami like the one that hit the Fukushima plant. The report stated that there was about a 20 percent chance that an earthquake of around magnitude 8 would occur off the coast between the northern Sanriku region and the Boso Peninsula within the next 30 years.

Based on this report, TEPCO predicted in 2008 that tsunami with a maximum height of 15.7 meters could hit the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The actual tsunami that hit the nuclear power station on March 11, 2011, however, was 15.5 meters tall. The plaintiffs argued that if TEPCO had taken the appropriate anti-tsunami measures based on the long-term assessment and other specific forecasts, the nuclear crisis could have been avoided.

The Maebashi District Court ruled almost entirely in favor of the plaintiffs, saying that TEPCO neglected to take measures despite having been able to predict that such a large tsunami could hit the nuclear plant, putting cost-cutting ahead of safety.

The court also handed down a similar decision regarding the culpability of the central government. Nuclear disasters cause irreparable damage over a large area. The court ruled that the fact that the central government did not exercise its regulatory authority even though TEPCO’s anti-tsunami measures were insufficient was extremely unreasonable when considering the import of the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law and other rules. It is notable, also, that the court ruled that the state’s responsibility was on par with that of TEPCO’s, and ordered the state to pay the plaintiffs the same amount in damages as the utility.

At the same time, however, the ruling was parsimonious in the compensation amount that it ordered be paid to the individual plaintiffs. Because the court deducted compensation money that TEPCO has already paid, the amount it approved was far below what the plaintiffs had demanded.

The plaintiffs had demanded 11 million yen per person — including for those who had evacuated voluntarily — citing loss of their hometowns and jobs, and grave emotional distress. For many of the plaintiffs, therefore, the ruling has likely come as a disappointment.

Around 30 similar lawsuits have been filed nationwide, by around 12,000 plaintiffs who have evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture. Rulings have not yet been handed down in any of those cases.

Why wasn’t the disaster prevented? Who is responsible? Much of the public is still seeking answers to these questions.

However, the nuclear disaster investigative committees of both the government and the Diet have disbanded, bringing their respective probes into causes of the crisis to a halt. The lessons from the ongoing disaster have yet to be learned in their entirety. It is because a single nuclear incident has grave and far-reaching consequences that an examination of its cause is so important.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170318/p2a/00m/0na/008000c

 

 

TEPCO ordered to pay for rumor-caused damages

A Japanese court has ordered Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, to compensate a golf course operator for damages caused by rumors after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011.

This is the first ruling in Japan that recognizes rumor-caused damages related to a nuclear accident.

The golf course operator’s suit claimed that revenues from its course in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, dropped due to harmful rumors related to the nuclear accident.

TEPCO argued that there was no danger from radiation because the golf course is more than 100 kilometers from the nuclear plant.

In the ruling on Wednesday, Tokyo District Court Judge Tetsuro Nakayoshi said the public did not have sufficient knowledge about radiation around the time of the accident.

He noted that it was not unreasonable for ordinary people to worry about health risks.

The court determined that harmful rumors were responsible for 30 to 50 percent of the decline in revenue for more than 5 months following the accident.

The court ordered the utility to pay about 180,000 dollars in compensation.

TEPCO says the company will deal with the matter sincerely after studying the ruling.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160721_01/

Prosecutors innocent TEPCO over radioactive water leakage into the ocean

The court said there is no evidence that proves that radioactive water flew out of the Fukushima nuclear power plant to the ocean. I hope this would finally convince those who haven’t been convinced that the state of Japan denies truth and violates peoples lives. Its time to get rid of Abe et al.

Prosecutors drop TEPCO case over radioactive water leakage

FUKUSHIMA–The Fukushima District Public Prosecutor’s Office announced on March 29 that it will not prosecute Tokyo Electric Power Co. or its executives for violating an environmental pollution law.

The decision came two and a half years after a group of plaintiffs, including residents of Fukushima Prefecture, filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and its 32 current and former executives.

The group sought to bring charges against the utility and its executives for allowing radioactive contaminated water to be discharged into the sea.

In its decision, the prosecutors said there was “insufficient” evidence to press charges against TEPCO and some of its executives, including Naomi Hirose, company president. The remaining executives, the prosecutors said, “had no authority or responsibility to set measures to avoid the leakage in the first place,” therefore, the accusation has “no grounds.”

“The Fukushima police investigated the case for almost two years. It is extremely disappointing,” said Ruiko Muto, 62, the head of the plaintiff’s group, at a news conference in Tokyo on March 29. “We wanted them to look into the case further. We can’t accept this decision.”

The group is planning to appeal to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution. The group will meet with its lawyers on March 30 and decide on whether it will pursue further action.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201603300068

Charges ruled out for Tepco figures over Fukushima No. 1 radioactive water spillage into sea

FUKUSHIMA – Public prosecutors decided on Tuesday not to indict Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose and other current and former executives of the utility over radioactive water leaks from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Sufficient evidence was not found, the Fukushima District Public Prosecutor’s Office said.

In September 2013, a civic group filed a criminal complaint against 32 current and former Tepco executives, including Hirose and Tsunehisa Katsumata, former chairman of the operator of the northeastern nuclear power plant, saying tainted water leaked from storage tanks into the ocean due to their failure to take preventive measures.

Through its investigation, the Fukushima Prefectural Police concluded that some 300 tons of stored radioactive water had flowed into the sea as of July 2013 because Tepco executives neglected to monitor the tanks or take leak-prevention measures, and sent the case to the prosecutors last October.

The prosecutors said there was no evidence supporting the allegation that the leaked tainted water was carried into the sea by groundwater at the plant, which suffered meltdowns following the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The group said it will ask for a prosecution inquest panel’s investigation.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/30/national/crime-legal/charges-ruled-tepco-figures-fukushima-no-1-radioactive-water-spillage-sea/#.VvtU1-IrLIU

Fukushima police to send toxic water case against TEPCO, execs to prosecutors

FUKUSHIMA — Police here will refer Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and 32 current and former TEPCO executives to prosecutors in connection with leaks of toxic water into the Pacific in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, investigative sources say.

The police will send papers on the case to the Fukushima District Public Prosecutors’ Office on suspicion TEPCO and the executives violated the environmental pollution offense law.

Among the 32 individuals are TEPCO President Naomi Hirose, former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former President Masataka Shimizu. They are suspected of being negligent in their duties and releasing radioactively contaminated water into the ocean from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

An initial criminal complaint accusing TEPCO executives of professional negligence resulting in injury or death was filed jointly by individuals and representatives of a citizens’ group. In September 2013, the same complainants filed with the Fukushima police against the TEPCO executives on suspicion of violating the environmental pollution offense law.

The complaint says the central government ordered TEPCO to build underground walls to prevent leaks of contaminated groundwater, but that TEPCO postponed taking the measure, citing costs and other reasons. Furthermore, the complaint accuses TEPCO of using weak water storage tanks resulting in the leak of some 300 metric tons of contaminated water, and of insufficient monitoring measures that led to the delayed discovery of the leak and increasing the volume of water that escaped.

Source: Mainichi

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20151002p2a00m0na016000c.html

Ex-Fukushima No. 1 worker sues Tepco over cancer

SAPPORO – A former worker at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has filed a damages suit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and others, claiming that he developed cancer due to exposure to radiation after the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

His lawyers said Tuesday the suit, filed in the Sapporo District Court, is the first litigation on causal relations between cancer and work to deal with the crisis.

The 57-year-old man is seeking a total of ¥65 million in damages from Tepco, contractor Taisei Corp. and its subcontractor.

According to his complaint, cancer was detected in his bladder in June 2012, in his stomach in March 2013 and in his sigmoid colon in May 2013 after he worked as a heavy equipment operator at Fukushima No. 1 between July and October 2011.

In August 2013, the man filed for workers accident compensation with the Tomioka Labor Standard Inspection Office in Fukushima Prefecture.

After the application was rejected in January this year, he requested that the Fukushima Prefectural Labor Bureau review the decision.

Records show that the man received a total of 56.41 millisieverts during his work at the power plant, but he claims to have been subjected to more than 100 millisieverts and says he sometimes worked without a dosimeter.

The government uses the 100-millisievert threshold to consider whether cancer has a causal link with radioactive exposure.

Tepco said it will respond sincerely after examining the lawsuit.

Source: Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/09/01/national/ex-fukushima-no-1-worker-sues-tepco-cancer/#.VeYvPZeFSM-

EDITORIAL: Trials of ex-TEPCO bigwigs a chance to take fresh look at disaster

Fukushima Daiichi hit by tsunami March 11, 2011The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is hit by tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will stand trial over their criminal responsibility for the 2011 disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

For the second time, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution has rejected an earlier decision by prosecutors not to indict the three, setting the stage for the forced prosecution of these three individuals.

They will be accused of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of people who were in hospitals when the disaster happened and other tragedies.

A report issued by the Diet’s Fukushima nuclear accident investigation committee states, “It is clear that the accident was a man-made disaster.”

But no government officials or TEPCO employees have been punished, either politically or administratively. In other words, no one has been held accountable for the nation’s worst nuclear accident.

Many Japanese citizens still feel that justice has not been meted out with regard to that harrowing disaster. Many are also concerned that a similar accident may occur again if nobody is held responsible for what happened in 2011.

A second decision by the independent judicial panel of citizens to demand the criminal prosecution of the three former TEPCO executives should be viewed as indicative of the disturbing and disquieting feelings among many citizens.

The system of forced indictment through the judgment of citizens was introduced in 2009, along with the “saiban-in” citizen judge system. Until that time, public prosecutors monopolized the power to decide whether to indict a suspect. The new system is intended to ensure that public opinion is reflected in the process of criminal prosecution, at least to a certain degree.

In reversing public prosecutors’ decision not to indict the suspects on grounds that there is no compelling case for holding them liable for negligence, the panel of citizens made a grave decision to force trials of the three individuals.

The court should, of course, consider carefully and fairly whether the former TEPCO executives should be held liable for the misfortunes of disaster victims from the viewpoint of evidence submitted.

At the same time, one question that needs to be asked is how TEPCO implemented measures to protect the nuclear plant from a possible tsunami and ensure the plant’s safety.

Collectively, the trials will offer a great opportunity to take a fresh look into the accident from a perspective that is different from those of the investigation committees set up by the government and the Diet.

There have not been many opportunities for people to talk about the disaster in public. But the three former TEPCO executives will probably be given opportunities to speak in the courtroom. The court can also order submission of specific pieces of evidence.

Future public debate on issues concerning nuclear power generation will benefit greatly if the trials uncover unknown facts in the process, such as chronological changes in the utility’s decisions concerning safety measures for its nuclear power plants and the ways the government and other public organizations influenced the company’s policy.

The nation’s judiciary has a long history of handing down rulings related to nuclear power generation. But in most of the past cases concerning the construction and operations of nuclear power plants, the courts ruled against opposing local residents.

The question is whether all these court rulings in favor of nuclear power were influenced in any way by the perception that there is no way to stop the expansion of electricity production with atomic energy based on the government’s energy policy.

The judiciary’s attitude to nuclear power generation has also been called into question by the accident.

In considering the criminal liabilities related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which has caused an unprecedented scale of damage, are the traditional criteria, like “specific predictability,” sufficiently effective?

The trials should prompt the judicial community to have more in-depth debate on this question.

We strongly hope the trials will be conducted in a way that lives up to people’s confidence in the judicial system.

Source: Asahi Shimbun

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201508010028