Ex-Tepco execs’ lawyers make final plea for acquittal over negligence in Fukushima nuclear crisis

The trial, which began in June 2017, ended on Tuesday. The court is expected to deliver its sentence on September 19.

March 12, 2019
Lawyers for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. called for their acquittal in their final defense plea on Tuesday in a negligence case stemming from the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011.
The defense team said that it was impossible for them to foresee the massive tsunami that engulfed the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and caused fuel meltdowns following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the coastal Tohoku region.
The day after the nation marked the eighth anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disasters, the lawyers for Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, Tepco chairman at the time of the crisis, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both vice presidents, told the Tokyo District Court they “do not recognize any predictability in the disaster.”
The three men have been indicted for allegedly failing to take measures against the massive tsunami and causing the deaths of 44 hospital inpatients and injuries to 13 others during the evacuations prompted by fuel meltdowns and hydrogen explosions at the plant.
Court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors have called for five-year prison terms for the three, claiming they could have prevented the nuclear disaster had they fulfilled their responsibilities in collecting information and taking safety measures.
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https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/03/12/national/crime-legal/ex-tepco-execs-lawyers-make-final-plea-acquittal-negligence-fukushima-nuclear-crisis/?fbclid=IwAR2diwN8B9xxWiBJU5dy6WbXrgx8tSoW32lwWTqR5Vi6gRuwf04Pmi8Ziq8#.XIhZmMn7Tcs

Japan and Tepco again ordered to pay damages to Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees

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February 20, 2019
Yokohama court orders government and TEPCO to pay $3.8m to 152 residents forced to flee homes after nuclear meltdown.
 
Presiding Judge Ken Nakadaira said the nuclear accident was preventable as the state could have foreseen as of September 2009, based on a projection by experts, that a massive tsunami similar to one that occurred in the ninth century could strike the area again and cause a complete power blackout at the plant.
 
He said it would have been “possible by the end of 2010” to implement steps such as installing emergency power generators that would have prevented damage to core reactors as well as hydrogen explosions that led to the release of massive amounts of radioactive materials outside the plant.
Nakadaira also criticized the state for its assessment before the disaster that Tepco’s anti-tsunami measures were adequate, saying it was a serious “mistake and failure.”
 
The ruling awarded compensation to 152 of the 175 plaintiffs, of whom 50 had evacuated voluntarily and 125 were forced to do so. They had each demanded ¥350,000 per month and compensation of ¥20 million for psychological damage due to “the loss of their hometown” in addition to compensation already paid by Tepco.
 
The ruling was the eighth among approximately 30 similar suits filed by more than 10,000 evacuees.
 
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TEPCO sat by idly on reports of fires, glitches at nuclear plants

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Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant
February 14, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Co. ignored reports on fires and other problems from its nuclear power plants and didn’t even bother to share the information in-house or consider precautionary measures, the nuclear watchdog revealed.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided Feb. 13 it will investigate the failure by TEPCO’s headquarters to tackle the problems reported by its three facilities: the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture and the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants, both in Fukushima Prefecture.
A TEPCO official said that the company put off tackling the problems because the deadline for dealing with such matters “was not clearly stated.”
NRA safety inspectors visited the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant from November through December last year.
They found that the division at company headquarters in charge of dealing with safety issues and sharing that information neglected reports of four problems that had occurred at the plant.
They cited 17 cases at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant; five cases at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and seven problems at the headquarters itself.

Ex-TEPCO Executive Downplays Role in Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown

Three TEPCO leaders are on trial for allegedly delaying tsunami preparation measures.
 
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TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, center, Vice President Takashi Fujimoto, second from left, Sakae Muto, second from right, and others bow before a news conference at the company’s head office in Tokyo, Japan (March 30, 2011).
October 31, 2018
Prosecutors at Tokyo Metropolitan District Court continue to piece together the timeline that led Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to hold off on securing the plant against its worst-case tsunami scenario.
Despite TEPCO staff being assigned to calculate the extent of the tsunami threat, their findings were ignored. Top TEPCO officials are now fighting criminal negligence charges for allegedly neglecting tsunami prevention initiatives.
Experts say the impact of the devastating tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, could have been prevented if sufficient countermeasures were taken. The lengthy criminal trial finished its 32nd session in late October, revealing contradictions in the managerial awareness of the long-term tsunami risks and a controversial shift in the company attitude toward installing appropriate measures.
Former CEO Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, and former Executive Vice Presidents Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, were indicted two years ago on charges of professional negligence resulting in death. All three have pleaded not guilty based on the uncertainty of predicting an “unthinkable” earthquake, which could occur once every thousand years.
Muto bowed his head in front of the judge and offered an apology to those who lost their lives, their families, and those forced to evacuate. From the outset, his initial apology seemed like an admission of responsibility. But it didn’t take long for Muto to maintain his innocence, saying he didn’t recall being briefed on a destructive earthquake or the need for new safety steps.
However, the cross-examination of witnesses at previous court sessions exposed holes in Muta’s pre-hearing affidavit and his statements made in court. TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita, in charge of anti-earthquake measures at the time, gave evidence saying all three officials joined an imperial court meeting in February 2008, where they acknowledged the prediction of a 7.7-meter high tsunami and instructed the building of a 10-meter seawall. The meeting is said to have stressed that new tsunami measures were needed at Fukushima Nuclear Plant based on the long-term evaluation of the country and a hard copy of the report was also distributed to officials. However, in Muto’s affidavit, he originally claimed there was “absolutely no report” and vehemently denied tsunami countermeasures for Fukushima Nuclear Plant were a topic of discussion in the meeting,
An unexpected policy shift away from tsunami preparedness materialized when the TEPCO civil engineering team recalculated the tsunami height risk to 15.7 meters. The team reported the findings to Muto in June the same year. Rather than accelerating earthquake resistance plans, however, as construction proposals ballooned from original estimates and with the risk of unwanted attention on the nuclear power plant’s safety prospects, Yamashita says he was given orders by Muto to scrap the plans. Muto then consulted the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to reassess the findings for a second opinion.
Muto explained in court that he was uncertain of the report’s credibility and that it was natural to gather information on the many aspects he couldn’t make sense of. He repeatedly denied that the move indicated a desire to postpone new safety measures but said it stemmed from lack of alternatives. According to Muto, he didn’t have authority to make decisions over the company in that way.
The Great Eastern Earthquake of March 2011 knocked out power supplies and damaged back up generators, causing vital cooling systems at the nuclear plan to fail. Three reactor cores overheated and began to leak radiation. Seven years on, some 40,000 residents who were forced to flee their homes in Fukushima prefecture are still unable to return to their houses, which have fallen to ruin in the no-go zone. The ongoing trial, propelled largely by a group of Fukushima plaintiffs, offers a small chance at gaining closure and much needed background into the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

TEPCO asked subsidiary to underestimate tsunami threat at Fukushima nuke plant: worker

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Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) asked a subsidiary in 2008 to underestimate the scale of tsunami that could hit the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant before tsunami devastated the facility in March 2011, a subsidiary employee told a court.
 
The worker at Tokyo Electric Power Services Co. (TEPSCO) appeared as a witness at the hearing of three former TEPCO executives under indictment on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury at the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 28.
 
The man played a key role in TEPSCO’s estimate of the scale of possible tsunami, which could hit the premises of the plant, between 2007 and 2008.
 
Based on a long-term evaluation by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, the employee estimated that tsunami up to 15.7 meters high could hit the atomic power station. In its evaluation, the quake research headquarters had warned that a massive tsunami could occur off the Sanriku region including Fukushima Prefecture. The area was later devastated by a massive tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, causing the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
 
In his testimony, the employee told the court that he briefed TEPCO headquarters of the outcome of TEPSCO’s estimate of possible tsunami in March 2008. An employee at TEPCO headquarters subsequently asked the witness whether the estimated scale of possible tsunami could be lowered by changing the calculation method.
 
In response, the employee recalculated the possible tsunami based on different movements of tsunami waves he assumed, but he obtained an all but identical figure, the employee told the court hearing. He added that in the end, the prediction was not accepted as the utility’s estimate of possible tsunami hitting the power plant.
 
The man testified that his estimation of up to 15.7-meter-high tsunami hitting the power plant was “within the scope of his assumption because the calculation was based on the 1896 Sanriku earthquake that triggered over 30-meter-high tsunami.”
 
During the hearing, court-appointed lawyers, acting as prosecutors to indict the three former TEPCO executives, said that TEPCO headquarters considered measures to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex from tsunami after being briefed of the outcome of TEPSCO’s tsunami estimate.
 
Nevertheless, the lawyers asserted that those who were on the company’s board at the time postponed drawing up tsunami countermeasures by deciding to commission the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to look into the matter, eventually opening the door to the nuclear crisis.
 
Public prosecutors had decided not to indict the three former TEPCO executives. However, under the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution, court-appointed lawyers prosecuted them after a prosecution inquest panel comprising members selected from among the public concluded twice that the three deserved indictment.
 

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

 

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.

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