Japanese Govt. and TEPCO Found Liable by Court for Fukushima Disaster

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People pray for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

Japan govt & Tokyo power firm liable for ‘preventable’ Fukushima meltdown – court

People pray for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

Negligence by the government and Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) contributed to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, a court in Japan has ruled, saying the catastrophe could have been avoided, and marking the first time the state has been held liable.

The district court in Maebashi, north of Tokyo, said the government and plant operator were to blame for failing to prepare anti-tsunami measures.

The judge awarded a total of 38.55 million yen (US$340,000) in damages to some 62 plaintiffs who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture after the disaster began to loom large at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported

A group of 137 plaintiffs had argued the authorities and TEPCO failed to prevent the triple meltdown at the plant, and demanded 11 million yen ($97,108) each in compensation, the newspaper said, adding that the court accepted most of the arguments about the dramatic lack of anti-tsunami measures.

The plaintiffs highlighted the fact that in May 2008, three years before the disaster, plant operator TEPCO received an estimate of a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters that could hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Asahi Shimbun reported. That apocalyptic forecast came true, with a wave around that height hitting the nuclear power plant in 2011, triggering the reactor meltdowns. A huge tsunami knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, spewing radiation and forcing 160,000 people to flee their homes.

If the utility had installed emergency diesel electric generators on higher ground, the measure could have prevented the nuclear disaster, the court ruled on Friday.

Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said that “TEPCO was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators,” the Japan Times reported

Meanwhile, in its long-term estimate, unveiled in 2002, the government said that the probability of an earthquake striking in the Japan Trench off the coast of northeastern Japan, including the sea area off the Fukushima No. 1 plant, was “about 20 percent within 30 years,” the Asahi Shimbun paper said

The lawyers for the plaintiffs welcomed the Friday court ruling, saying “It was extremely significant that (a court) has acknowledged the responsibility of the state,” Kyodo news agency reported

Around 30 similar suits have been filed in at least 20 district courts across Japan, lawyers said.

However, Takehiro Matsuta, one of the plaintiffs who evacuated from the city of Koriyama in central Fukushima Prefecture, called the damages “disappointing.” His child, who was three years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, received no compensation whatsoever.

My wife and I are struggling every day, but it’s my child who suffers the most,” the 38-year-old father said, as cited by the Japan Times. 

The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of earthquake victims nationwide,” he said.

Both the government and TEPCO argued that the long-term estimate and the May 2008 tsunami study were not credible enough, continuing to insist that the massive tsunami was unexpected.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, told a press conference on Friday that the officials “will consider how to respond after carefully examining the ruling.”

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a blackout and subsequent failure of its cooling systems in March 2011, when it was hit by an earthquake and a killer tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, spewing radiation and forcing 160,000 people to flee their homes. Three of the plant’s six reactors were hit by meltdowns, making the Fukushima nuclear disaster the worst since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986.

https://www.rt.com/news/381154-tepco-government-liable-fukushima/

 

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Supporters of plaintiffs seeking compensation for Fukushima evacuees unfurl banners in front of the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture announcing the court’s decision Friday.


In first, government and Tepco found liable for Fukushima disaster

Maebashi, Gunma Pref. – A court in Japan has ruled for the first time that the government and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were responsible for failing to take preventive measures against the March 11, 2011, quake-triggered tsunami that killed scores and forced tens of thousands from their homes.

Friday’s stunning ruling by the Maebashi District Court was the first to recognize negligence by the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. It called the massive tsunami predictable and said the major nuclear disaster could have been avoided.

The district court ordered the two to pay damages totaling ¥38.55 million to 62 of 137 plaintiffs from 45 households located near the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown caused by the tsunami, awarding ¥70,000 to ¥3.5 million in compensation to each plaintiff.

The plaintiffs had demanded the state and Tepco pay compensation of ¥11 million each — a total of about ¥1.5 billion — over the loss of local infrastructure and psychological stress they were subjected to after being forced to relocate to unfamiliar surroundings.

Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said in the ruling that “Tepco was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators.”

It pointed out that the state should have ordered Tepco to take bolstered preventive measures, and criticized the utility for prioritizing costs over safety.

Of the plaintiffs, 76 who lived in evacuation zones were forced to move, while another 61 evacuated voluntarily even though their houses were located outside evacuation zones. The ruling was the first of 30 similar class-action suits filed nationwide involving more than 10,000 plaintiffs.

About 80,000 citizens who had lived in Fukushima reportedly left the prefecture after the March 2011 disaster.

I believe that the ruling saying both the government and Tepco were equally responsible is an important judgment,” Katsuyoshi Suzuki, the lead lawyer for the defense said at a news conference following the ruling. “But thinking about the psychological distress (the plaintiffs faced) after being forced to evacuate from their homes, I think the amount is not enough.”

Takehiro Matsuta, 38, one of the plaintiffs who evacuated from the city of Koriyama, hailed the ruling, but called the damages “disappointing.”

The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of earthquake victims nationwide,” he said.

But called the payout “disappointing,” as his child, who was 3 years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, was not granted compensation. “My wife and I are struggling everyday, but it’s my child who suffers the most.”

The group of lawyers for the plaintiffs, which have had suits filed since September 2011, claimed that the Fukushima disaster resulted in serious human rights violations by forcing victims to relocate after the crisis caused widespread environmental damage.

The plaintiffs argued that Tepco could have prevented the damage if it had implemented measures, including the building of breakwaters, based on its 2008 tsunami trial calculation that showed waves of over 10 meters could hit the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Those calculations took into account the 2002 estimate by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, which concluded that there was a 20 percent chance of a magnitude-8 earthquake rocking areas off Fukushima within 30 years.

However, the government and Tepco have argued that the massive tsunami was unexpected, claiming that there were different opinions among scholars over the long-term evaluation. Both attacked the credibility of the study, calling it unscientific.

The government also objected to the ruling, saying that because it had no authority to force Tepco to take such preventive measures as argued by the plaintiffs, it bore no responsibility.

According to the defense, a number of other class suits are inching closer to rulings, with one in the city of Chiba scheduled for Sept. 22 and another in the city of Fukushima involving 4,000 plaintiffs expected by the year’s end.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/17/national/crime-legal/first-government-tepco-found-liable-fukushima-disaster/#.WMwqEqKmnIV

Japanese Government and Utility Are Found Negligent in Nuclear Disaster

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An abandoned home in Futaba, Japan, one of the towns around the Fukushima plant. Nearly 160,000 people evacuated the area after the disaster in 2011.

TOKYO — The Japanese government and the electric utility that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were negligent in not preventing the meltdowns in 2011 that forced thousands of people to flee the area, a district court in eastern Japan ruled on Friday.

It was the first time that a court determined that both the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, and the government bore responsibility for the nuclear disaster that followed a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The decision could influence dozens of similar lawsuits filed by close to 12,000 evacuated residents now living across the country.

According to Japanese news reports of the ruling by the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture, the court said that the disaster, considered the worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986, was “predictable” and that it was “possible to prevent the accident.”

The court ordered the government and Tepco to pay damages totaling 38 million yen, or about $335,000, to 62 residents who were evacuated from the towns around the Fukushima plant and who relocated to Gunma. Each was awarded a different amount, but the total worked out to an average of $5,400 a person.

In their lawsuit, 137 former residents had sued for damages of ¥11 million, about $97,000, per person, and the court awarded damages to half the plaintiffs. About half of them had left on government evacuation orders while the other half had decided to leave on their own. Each case was evaluated individually.

The court weighed whether Tepco and the government had paid adequate damages to the nearly 160,000 people who evacuated from the towns around Fukushima. About 90,000 people have returned or settled in other places, and Tepco has already paid about ¥7 trillion in compensation.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that the central government and Tepco should have foreseen the possibility of a tsunami of the magnitude that hit the plant and that they should have done more to protect the plant.

The March 11, 2011, meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, which is on the eastern coast of Japan, occurred when 32-foot waves breached the power station’s protective sea walls, flooding buildings and destroying diesel-powered electricity generators that were designed to keep critical systems functioning in a blackout.

Tepco did not deny responsibility in a statement on Friday.

We again apologize from the bottom of our hearts for giving great troubles and concerns to the residents of Fukushima and other people in society by causing the accident of the nuclear power station of our company,” Isao Ito, a spokesman, said. “Regarding today’s judgment given at the Maebashi local court today, we would like to consider how to respond to this after examining the content of the judgment.”

Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet minister to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told reporters that the government had yet to see the details of the ruling.

The concerned ministries and agencies are going to thoroughly examine the content of the judgment and discuss how we will respond to it,” Mr. Suga said.

Analysts said the case appeared to set an important precedent.

Tepco’s argument all along has basically been that everything it did before the accident had been approved by the government, while the government has claimed that Tepco failed to follow guidance,” said Azby Brown, director of the Future Design Institute at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and a volunteer researcher with Safecast, an independent radiation-monitoring group.

This suit seems to have concluded that the evidence shows they share culpability,” he said. “I expect the government and Tepco to appeal, and for this to drag on for years.”

Izutaro Managi, a lawyer representing another class-action lawsuit against the government and Tepco, said that the government had failed in its oversight responsibilities. He said the damages were “not big enough.”

Representatives of groups that have sued the government and Tepco for negligence said they were more interested in the principle of the case than the amount of compensation awarded.

The money is not a problem,” said Koichi Muramatsu, 66, a former resident of Soma City in Fukushima and the secretary of a victims group representing 4,200 plaintiffs in the suit being handled by Mr. Managi. “Even if it’s ¥1,000 or ¥2,000, it’s fine. We just want the government to admit their responsibility. Our ultimate goal is to make the government admit their responsibility and remind them not to repeat the same accident.”

In a statement, Katsumasa Suzuki, the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling significant because it “legally reconfirmed that government regulation was inappropriate.”

But he said he was disappointed by the low total of the damages.

It is largely questionable whether the mental distress the plaintiffs faced was adequately evaluated,” he said.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/world/asia/japan-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-tepco-ruling.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=0&referer=https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FTFE8zlaSpi

Court Decision in 137 Evacuees’ Fukushima Suit: State and TEPCO Must Compensate

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Court: State and TEPCO must compensate

A court in Japan has ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay damages to evacuees of the 2011 nuclear accident.
The ruling is the first among similar suits filed across the country to order compensation.

137 evacuees mainly living in Gunma Prefecture northwest of Tokyo, filed the suit. They were seeking damages for emotional distress suffered after losing their livelihoods.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170317_23/

Court decision expected in Fukushima damages suit

A district court in eastern Japan will announce its decision Friday on a damages lawsuit filed by evacuees of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

137 people, mainly evacuees living in Gunma Prefecture, filed the suit with the Maebashi District Court, seeking compensation worth about 13 million dollars. The ruling will be the first damages suit of its kind in Japan.

The plaintiffs include those who fled evacuation zones and other parts of Fukushima Prefecture after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They say they suffered emotional distress after losing their livelihoods. They are seeking about 97,000 dollars each.

The points of contention include whether the Japanese government and plant operator TEPCO could have foreseen the major tsunami and prevented the damage, as well as whether the compensation TEPCO is paying evacuees is appropriate.

The plaintiffs claim the tsunami was predictable, citing a 2002 prediction of a massive earthquake by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion.

But the government and TEPCO say many researchers voiced differing views, and an installation of tide embankments based on the prediction would not have prevented the damage.

The plaintiffs say the compensation they received is insufficient. The government and TEPCO say it is appropriate.

More than 12,000 people have filed similar suits in 18 prefectures.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170317_10/