Five-year jail terms are being sought for former Tepco executives Tsunehisa Katsumata (left), Ichiro Takekuro (middle) and Sakae Muto for their alleged failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in 2011.
5-year prison terms sought for former TEPCO executives
Prosecutors on Dec. 26 demanded five-year prison terms for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the disaster caused by a tsunami slamming into the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” the prosecution said at the trial at the Tokyo District Court. “That led to the deaths of many people.”
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former chairman of TEPCO, Sakae Muto, 68, former vice president, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former vice president, are standing trial on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in connection to the triple meltdown at the plant in 2011.
According to the prosecution, the failure of the three to take countermeasures against tsunami led to the deaths of 44 people and the injuries of many others.
Many of them were hospital patients who were forced to evacuate when the nuclear crisis unfolded.
The defendants have all pleaded innocent. They said they had no way of predicting a tsunami of the height that inundated the Fukushima plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Prosecutors had dropped the case against the three, but they were mandatorily indicted by an inquest of prosecution committee comprising ordinary citizens.
Lawyers are acting as prosecutors in the trial.
Shozaburo Ishida of the prosecution side said if a nuclear accident occurs, it results in an irreparable situation in which radioactive materials are spread.
He said the three defendants, who were in the utility’s top management at the time of the Fukushima disaster, should be held responsible because they failed to pay close attention to the safety of the plant.
The prosecution accused the three of “postponing” anti-tsunami measures despite learning that an in-house analysis showed that a tsunami of up to 15.7 meters in height could hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The plant sits on land 10 meters above sea level.
According to the prosecution, the three gave the nod to anti-tsunami measures in 2008 based on a government assessment report about the probability of earthquakes striking Japan.
However, they stalled in taking the necessary steps, the prosecution said.
During the trial, the defendants denied the credibility of the government’s long-term assessment report.
They also said “15.7 meters” was a preliminary figure, and that asking the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to evaluate the appropriateness of TEPCO’s projection does not amount to “postponing” anti-tsunami measures.
5-year prison terms sought for 3 ex-TEPCO execs over nuclear disaster
TOKYO — Five-year prison terms were sought for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on Dec. 26 over a nuclear disaster at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northeastern Japan in 2011.
A court-appointed lawyer who indicted the three — Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former chairman of TEPCO; Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former vice president; and Sakae Muto, 68, another former vice president — demanded the punishments at a Tokyo District Court hearing.
Prosecutors had abandoned indicting the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel comprising those selected from among members of the general public deemed twice that they deserve indictment, a court-appointed lawyer indicted them in accordance with the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.
The lawyer said the defendants’ failure to take measures to prevent tsunami caused the accident.
“Even though the defendants were the top-ranking executives of a nuclear plant operator, they failed to do what they should have done, continued to operate the nuclear plant and caused the deaths of many people,” the lawyer said. “If they had obtained necessary information on possible massive tsunami on their own authority and taken appropriate measures, they could have prevented the serious accident.”
Katsumata, Takekuro and Muto are charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the March 2011 nuclear accident. Specifically, they are accused of neglecting to take preventive measures while being aware that a massive tsunami could cause an accident at the plant, forcing patients at Futaba Hospital in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma to take shelter for a long time and causing 44 of them to die.
The key point of contention during the trial is whether the three defendants could have predicted the accident before tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake crashed into the plant.
In 2008, TEPCO estimated that tsunami waves as high as 15.7 meters could hit the Fukushima Daiichi complex based on a long-term evaluation by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion. Nevertheless, the company stopped short of taking countermeasures against such massive tsunami at the plant.
Muto had been briefed of the estimate, but chose to put countermeasures on hold because the company asked experts to re-examine the long-term evaluation.
With regard to this, the court-appointed lawyer pointed out that they delayed countermeasures even though they could have predicted the disaster.
The three defendants argued that they took “appropriate procedures,” and that “it’s only natural that we asked experts to examine the evaluation.”
Five-year jail terms sought for ex-Tepco executives over Fukushima nuclear crisis
Five-year prison terms were sought Wednesday for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. for their alleged failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
At the Tokyo District Court, court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors said if the three had collected information properly and prepared necessary safety measures it would have been possible to predict the massive tsunami and prevent the disaster.
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, chairman of the company at the time of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both former vice presidents, have pleaded not guilty, arguing the tsunami was unforeseeable and the disaster would have occurred even if they had implemented preventive measures.
A final hearing for the defense will be held next March.
The court-appointed lawyers said it was clear from earlier testimony that the utility had been informed by one of its subsidiaries in 2008 that a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters could hit the plant, but it did not immediately take preventive steps.
“(Muto) prioritized avoiding suspension of the power plant and put off the problem,” one of the lawyers said.
The three were charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury by the court-appointed lawyers in 2016 after an independent panel of citizens mandated they be indicted.
The independent panel’s decision came after Tokyo prosecutors twice decided against charging the three.
The former executives have been indicted for the deaths of 44 people, including patients forced to evacuate from a hospital, as well as injuries suffered by 13 people, including Self-Defense Force members, resulting from hydrogen explosions at the plant.
A total of 34 hearings have been held since last June, during which 21 witnesses, ranging from current and former Tepco officials to earthquake and tsunami experts, were questioned.
On March 11, 2011, the six-reactor plant located on the Pacific coast was flooded by tsunami waves triggered by a massive quake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply. The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors subsequently suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the No. 1, 3 and 4 units.
As a result of the nuclear crisis, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, around 160,000 people were evacuated at one stage. More than 30,000 of them were still displaced as of late November.