Niigata’s Prefecture Governor Resignation to Affect the Approval of Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant Restart…

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Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama bows during a press conference at the Niigata Prefectural Government office on April 18, 2018.
Governor quits over sex scandal, affects nuclear reactor restart
April 18, 2018
NIIGATA (Kyodo) — Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama said Wednesday he will resign after admitting to a sex scandal in a move affecting the approval process for the restart of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s nuclear reactors in the central Japan prefecture.
“I sincerely offer apologies for betraying the trust of many people,” Yoneyama told a press conference, admitting that his relationship with a woman, as described in a weekly magazine due out Thursday, may “look to some as prostitution.”
Shukan Bunshun magazine alleged in an online teaser article Wednesday that the 50-year-old governor has been paying money to have sex with a 22-year-old college student. At a news conference Wednesday, the governor said he gave a woman he met online “presents and money so she would like me more.”
Since being elected governor in 2016, Yoneyama has refrained from approving the restart of the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex.
The governor has said he cannot make the decision until the prefectural government completes its own assessment of what caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.
All seven Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units are boiling water reactors, the same as those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where three of six reactors melted down in the days after a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Last December, two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex cleared safety reviews under the stricter, post-Fukushima regulations.
On Tuesday, Yoneyama said he would consider whether to quit over a forthcoming magazine article about a “woman issue.” Calls for his resignation were growing in the Niigata prefectural assembly.
The gubernatorial election to pick Yoneyama’s successor is expected to be held in early June. Yoneyama will resign with two and a half years of his term remaining.
The seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.
Facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the Fukushima disaster, Tepco is keen to resume operation of its reactors to improve its financial performance.
The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also supports restarting nuclear reactors that have cleared post-Fukushima safety reviews.
Yoneyama won the Niigata governorship in October 2016 with the support of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, which are both opposed to nuclear power. He defeated contenders including a candidate backed by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito.
 
Governor of Japan’s Niigata resigns to avoid ‘turmoil’ over magazine article
April 18, 2018
TOKYO (Reuters) – The governor of Japan’s Niigata prefecture, home to the world’s largest nuclear power plant, resigned on Wednesday, saying he hoped to avoid political turmoil over an impending magazine article about his relations with women.
News that the governor, Ryuichi Yoneyama, intended to resign sent shares of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (Tepco) surging as investors bet his departure could make it easier for the utility to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is in Niigata prefecture.
Japan has had few reported “#MeToo” cases about sexual harassment involving public figures but Yoneyama’s resignation came on the same day Japan’s top finance bureaucrat resigned on after a magazine said he had sexually harassed several female reporters. The official denied the allegation.
Yoneyama, like his predecessor, is opposed to a restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant and has been a block to attempts to get the station going by the utility, which also owns the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station.
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A Representative of Plaintiffs, Tokuo HayaKawa’s Statement in The Court

tokuo-hayakawa.jpgTokuo Hayakawa at the rally in Tokyo in January, 2018.

 

JIJI PRESS’s article

TEPCO Ordered to Pay 600 M. Yen to Fukushima Evacuees

The statement below is translated by Yoshihiro Kaneda. If it has mistakes, Yoshihiro Kaneda has responsibility for that.

Statement

2017 October 6th

To  The Iwaki branch of the Fukushima District Court

Plaintiff: Tokuo Hayakawa

1 I am the thirtieth chief priest of a mountain temple which has a history of over 600 years, but the temple will pass into nothingness in my lifetime. Ten parishioners already severed our relationship. I became a chief priest in 1977 and the temple was desolated even 30 years after the end of the World War 2 because we had about 100 parishioners.

I planed reviving original religious activities and events and improvement for the environment of the temple and was satisfied with its achievement that I did most of it for three decades and several years until March 11th. Especially, the improvement of the precincts, I exerted myself and I overlapped it with my thought which I wanted to live my late life with enjoying the beauty of nature. After retirement, I was comfortable and enjoyed the nature.

I was deprived of this achievement, satisfaction and enjoyment. I was deprived of happiness which I could earn by living for it. I lost my spiritual support to live the rest of my life. What was my life?

 

2 I am living this way now, but there were evacuees abandoned themselves to grief and then, they comitted suicide.

I heard about a married couple who lost their jobs due to the nuclear accident and heaved sighs repeatedly in Aizuwakamatsu. They strangled their disabled son and they hanged themselves along at the railroad of the Tadami Line.

There was a man,102 years old, who said “Do I have to move from here? I want to live here. I have lived too long.” The man had a rope around his neck and hanged himself.

A cattle farmer who was a 54-year-old man committed suicide, left a message on the wall of the cattle shed in Souma “if there was no nuclear power plant.”

The nuclear accident took a job from a person who was a hundred kilometers away and took an old man’s home, who has lived a hundred-year life and forced a man to kill himself, who had no idea how to pay back his debt because he could not earn money due to a ban on the shipment of milk.

 

There are many other people who committed suicide.

Our defense counsel won two epochal decisions by suing for the people who killed themselves at the Fukushima District Court.

The appeal of the man whose wife burnt herself to death was admitted. After the ruling, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) officials came to his house to apologize but they lost words because the husband rejected point-blank and said “But my wife will never return,” on the scene.

 The wife lost her husband by suicide. Her appeal was admitted and officials of TEPCO went to her home to apologize. But she said “I don’t accept,” and the officials were amazed and silent.

One of the plaintiff’s statements stated that he barely stopped his suicide. I listened to all of the statements by the plaintiffs. While listening to each statement, I always presumed regrets of those who committed suicide.

 

3  The nuclear accident deprived all of regions and societies we lived, people’s lives and existences. We cannot ever fully recover from this problem again. We lost the places where we were born. The judges witnessed this themselves.

“If only there was no nuclear power plant,” “If only the nuclear accident did not happen.” Those words cannot pierce the heart of the officials of TEPCO. That is the true nature of TEPCO that has not changed after the accident. If they were human, these words would reach them.

Did our statements touch TEPCO? Or their hearts? I will continue to appeal until our victims’ lodgment reach the hearts of TEPCO officials. That is our regretful thought.

 

4  Through the trial, it became clear that the bottom cause of the accident was a top priority of profit seeking.

However, TEPCO does not admit their responsibility of the accident and, regarding our compensation, they said: “Go to law.” Can we forgive this injustice?

Originally, why did TEPCO build a nuclear plant in Fukushima? Can they explain? They cannot.

We are not only ones who are victims and evacuees by the nuclear accident and our regions are not the only victimized regions. Victims are struggling at the various regions and the evacuation areas. Among them, our plaintiffs are only forced evacuees and what rules the trial is the local Iwaki branch which is nearest court from the nuclear power plant which caused the accident. Those who will rule are the judges who live in Iwaki and have chances to meet the evacuees. We were facing the trial with feeling the significance of that. Our lawyers were aware of this profoundly.

 

5  “Due to the geographical and social conditions, a location of a nuclear power plant must be the place which does not have a big city in its neighboring region and the place which is sparsely populated.” (The Development Vision of the Futatba Atomic Energy District) “We confirmed that both towns of Okuma and Futaba were the best place to build the nuclear power plant. In the background that the confirmation went along well, there were facts such as that EPCO manipulated carefully after asking to build the nuclear power plant. (Coexistence and Co-evolution-With the Region-The Course of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 45 years, A History of the first thirty years of Tokyo Electric Power Company)

These are the reason and the circumstance but “why must the location of the nuclear power plant be the place which is sparsely populated?” “why do they manipulate carefully?”

These questions suggest that TEPCO expects a danger and severe accident. If they explained the danger and severe accident to residents, there would be no sacrifices and victims who said if only there was no nuclear power plant.

 

6  TEPCO had various big and small accidents one after the other immediately after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant started business operation and they hid the accident which might become a huge accident. Whenever the accident happened, they were designated their slow report and, furthermore, they falsified and fabricated the data and so on. That situation became normal and worsen. It was no wonder that a huge accident could happen at anytime without the earthquake and tsunami. That situation lasted 40 years. That was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

On the other hand, TEPCO circulated an enormous quantity of various handouts and brochures, providing “safety myth” as the measure to local residents. Among those, there was a brochure, titled Calm and Lively Way. Support for Futaba Vigor Life! Futaba with ties: In order to tie strongly between the power plant and residents of Futaba County forever.

They ignored the safety measure we asked whenever strange things happened to the nuclear power plant. In the same breath, they distributed the handouts like that.

 

7  In 1972, the Association of Naraha Town Residents was formed with the resolution: “We protect beautiful natural mountains and rivers and peaceful lives of townspeople and lives of us and our posterity.” In 1973, the same associations were formed in Tomioka and Okuma. On September in the same year the prefecture association was formed with the agreement: “We are against nuclear and thermal power plants because we cannot obtain the confirmation of safety and those plants are not true regional development and those are against people’s will.” So we, both town and prefecture people were appealing its risk.

One year after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the organizations of anti-nuclear residents all over Japan took a leading part and they formed “The Nuclear Power Plant Problem Residential Movement National Contact Center.” Since then, in order to establish measures for safety and emergency, we proposed and negotiated with the government and each electric power company every year.

We continued to warn them with publishing a pamphlet titled “Next Huge Accident Will Be in Japan” in 1992.

 

8  On February, 2005, TEPCO admitted the nuclear power plants in Fukushima could not be withstood by a tsunami in the Chilean Tsunami class becuase we had accused them. But they neglected one and all of our frequented drastic measure claims. Then, the huge accident happened. The Fukushima nuclear accident was an accident that was waiting to happen. Can we deny it?

 

9  According to “The Result of the Root Cause Analysis” in Summary of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident and Nuclear Safety Reform Plan, published after the accident, on March 3, 2013, by TEPCO, TEPCO says “the fact of admitting a need of tsunami protection measures leads that the power plant at that time is not safe. As a result, we were convinced that we would be required nimious measures by Nuclear Regulatory Commission and local residents.”

These things like this are TEPCO’s 40 years history. In consequence, what a huge damage we got! This is our one word “if only there was no nuclear accident.”

 

10  On August 5th, 2015, Naomi Hirose, CEO of TEPCO was asked the question “Do you acknowledge that the accident was a man-made disaster as a perpetrator?” He answered firmly  “Honestly, I have never thought seriously whether the accident was a man-made disaster or natural disaster until now.” On December 8th, 2016, Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, the president of TEPCO Fukushima Revital Headquarter, said to one victim “the nuclear power plant is  a necessary evil.” They made incautious remarks that they have not understood the calamity of victims and the stricken area at all four and five years after the accident.

 

11  We dare to bring a case before the Iwaki branch which is the closest local court from the location of the stricken area and the nuclear power plant. It is because we assure only this local court can understand suffering of victims and also they can hand down the decision which will take the part of the victims.

If this local court will hand down a decision which overlooks our actual conditions of damage and the situations of the hometown, we, victims, will not be relieved. All the more, please, the court, according to the facts and truth, hand down a decision for which we are able to hold a hope to live. We and many victims are suffering the damage that “it is impossible to verbalize.”

The Mainichi’s article is below.
Another court orders TEPCO to pay damages to Fukushima evacuees

http://www.absurdity.asia/2018/03/22/a-representative-of-plaintiffs-tokuo-hayakawas-statement-in-the-court/

Americans seek $1 bil. in damages over Fukushima nuclear disaster

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A U.S. Marine assists Japanese Self-Defense Force members in removing debris from the grounds of Minato Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in this file photo taken on April 1, 2011.
 
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Some 200 U.S. residents filed a suit against Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and a U.S. firm seeking at least $1 billion to cover medical expenses related to radiation exposure suffered during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the utility said Monday.
 
The lawsuit was filed last Wednesday with U.S. federal courts in the Southern District of California and the District of Columbia by participants in the U.S. forces’ Operation Tomodachi relief effort carried out in the wake of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that crippled TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
 
Many of the plaintiffs are suing TEPCO and the U.S. company, whose name was withheld by TEPCO, for the second time after a similar suit was rejected by the federal court in California in January.
 
They are seeking the establishment of a compensation fund of at least $1 billion to cover medical and other costs, the utility said.
 
The plaintiffs claim that the nuclear accident occurred due to improper design and management of the plant by TEPCO. They are also seeking compensation for physical and psychological damage suffered as a result of the disaster, said the utility.
In Operation Tomodachi, which began two days after the natural disasters, the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and other U.S. military resources and personnel were deployed to deliver supplies and undertake relief efforts at the same time as three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex suffered fuel meltdowns.
 

Tepco and other utilities eye joint nuclear plant project in Aomori Prefecture

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Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and other major utilities will start talks this spring on jointly building and operating a nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, sources close to the matter said Friday.
The plan involves Tepco’s Higashidori nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture, the construction of which was suspended following meltdowns at the firm’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011. Tohoku Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co., and Japan Atomic Power Co. are expected to participate in the project, according to the sources.
Kansai Electric Power Co. is also considering joining a group to discuss the role of each utility and how to shoulder the huge costs related to the Higashidori plant, they said.
The government, which holds the majority of Tepco’s voting rights through a state-backed bailout fund, is expected to support the move.
Tepco, which began constructing the Higashidori plant in January 2011, hopes to compile a joint venture plan around fiscal 2020.
Struggling under the burden of huge compensation payments and plant decommissioning costs from the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Tepco is aiming to rebuild itself through realigning its nuclear business. The utility has been asking other power companies since late last year to join in with construction of the Higashidori plant.
Other utilities may benefit from the joint business as they can share know-how and resources through the initiative at a time when profitability is deteriorating, due to suspensions of nuclear power plants for tighter safety screening introduced after the Fukushima disaster.
Still, many utilities remain wary that teaming up with the crisis-hit Tepco could result in their share of plant decommissioning costs increasing in the future.

Third Court, Kyoto District Court, Rules Tepco and Government Liable to Pay Damages to Evacuees

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TEPCO, state told to pay 3/11 evacuees who left on their own
March 15, 2018
The legal team for evacuees of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster hold signs stating partial victory at the Kyoto District Court on March 15.
KYOTO–The district court here ordered the government and the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 15 to pay a combined 110 million yen ($1 million) to 110 evacuees who fled voluntarily after the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Presiding Judge Nobuyoshi Asami at the Kyoto District Court ruled that the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. were liable on grounds that they failed to take adequate measures to protect the plant from the tsunami that inundated the facility after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The court noted the government’s “long-term assessment” for possible earthquakes unleashing tsunami compiled in 2002. The report pointed to the possibility of a powerful earthquake and tsunami striking the plant.
All of the 174 plaintiffs from 57 families had evacuated to Kyoto Prefecture without an evacuation order except for one individual from Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture.
Tomioka was within the 20-kilometer radius from the plant ordered to evacuate after the crisis unfolded on March 11, 2011, triggered by the magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami.
Apart from Fukushima, the plaintiffs were from Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.
The plaintiffs plan to appeal the court decision, as 64 were not awarded compensation.
The plaintiffs sought 846.6 million yen collectively in damages from the government and the utility.
The district court ruling marked the fifth in a series of similar lawsuits brought across the nation.
In all five cases, the respective courts acknowledged TEPCO’s responsibility to pay damages to the plaintiffs.
The Kyoto District Court’s decision was the third to acknowledge the government’s responsibility.
The key issues in the Kyoto case were if the towering tsunami that swamped the plant was foreseen, if the government had authority to force TEPCO to take countermeasures against such an event, and if the amount of compensation paid by TEPCO to voluntary evacuees based on the government’s guidelines was appropriate.
Most of the plaintiffs sought 5.5 million yen each in damages.
In the ruling, the district court determined that TEPCO should pay additional compensation on top of the amount set in the government guidelines to 109 plaintiffs who fled voluntarily despite not being subject to evacuation orders.
The criteria for extra payment are distance from the plant, radiation levels around homes, and family members who require medical attention due to the exposure to radiation.
Among the plaintiffs who were awarded additional compensation were those from Chiba Prefecture, just east of Tokyo and roughly 240 km from Fukushima Prefecture.
The court stated that the extra payment should be based on damage they suffered over two years after they began evacuating.
In the lawsuits filed at three other districts, some of the plaintiffs who evacuated voluntarily were awarded additional compensation, ranging from 10,000 yen to 730,000 yen per person.
 
Third court rules Tepco, govt liable over Fukushima disaster-media
TOKYO, March 15 (Reuters) –
* Kyoto district court on Thursday ruled that Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) and the Japanese government were liable for damages arising from the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, the Asahi newspaper said
* The ruling is the third court decision assigning liability to both Tepco and the government for the disaster that led to the evacuation of around 160,000 people
* A group of 174 claimants sought 850 million yen ($8 million)in damages arising from the disaster
* The court in western Japan did not accept that all plaintiffs should be awarded damages ($1 = 105.9900 yen) (Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
 
Court orders Japan government to pay new Fukushima damages
TOKYO (AFP)-A Japanese court on Thursday ordered the government to pay one million dollars in new damages over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, ruling it should have predicted and avoided the meltdown.
The Kyoto district court ordered the government and power plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) to pay 110 million yen in damages to 110 local residents who had to leave the Fukushima region, a court official and local media said.
Thursday’s verdict was the third time the government has been ruled liable for the meltdown in eastern Japan, the world’s most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
In October, a court in Fukushima city ruled that both the government and TEPCO were responsible, following a similar ruling in March in the eastern city of Maebashi.
However, another court, in Chiba near Tokyo, ruled in September that only the operator was liable.
On Thursday, presiding judge Nobuyoshi Asami ordered that 110 plaintiffs who saw their lives ruined and their property destroyed by the disaster be awarded compensation, Jiji Press and other media reported.
Contacted by AFP, a court spokesman confirmed the reports, adding that the ruling denied damages to several dozen additional plaintiffs.
“That damages for 64 people were not recognised was unexpected and regrettable,” a lawyer for the plaintiffs said, adding that they would appeal, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Around 12,000 people who fled after the disaster due to radiation fears have filed various lawsuits against the government and TEPCO.
Cases have revolved around whether the government and TEPCO, both of whom are responsible for disaster prevention measures, could have foreseen the scale of the tsunami and subsequent meltdown.
Dozens of class-action lawsuits have been filed seeking compensation from the government.
In June, former TEPCO executives went on trial in the only criminal case in connection with the disaster.
The hearing is continuing.
Triggered by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake, the tsunami overwhelmed reactor cooling systems, sending three into meltdown and sending radiation over a large area.

Nuclear Power Facing a Tsunami of Litigation

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March 12, 2018
Legal fallout from the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station continues, as dozens of lawsuits and injunctions make their way through Japan’s judicial system. The final rulings could have a profound impact on the government’s energy policy and approach to risk mitigation.
Court cases stemming from the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi can be divided broadly into two categories. In the first are efforts to assign responsibility for the accident, including one high-profile criminal case and numerous civil suits by victims seeking damages from the government and owner-operator Tokyo Electric Power Company. The second group consists of lawsuits and injunctions aimed at blocking or shutting down operations at plants other than Fukushima Daiichi (whose reactors have been decommissioned) on the grounds that they pose a grave safety threat. In the following, we briefly survey these cases and their implications.
A Foreseeable Danger?
According to lawyer Managi Izutarō, who is handling the largest class-action suit against TEPCO and the government, about 30 such cases are currently moving through courts around the nation. Most of the plaintiffs are Fukushima evacuees who filed suit in the districts to which they fled after the accident.
Meanwhile, TEPCO’s former chairman and two former vice-presidents are facing charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in a criminal case currently before the Tokyo District Court. Tokyo prosecutors initially declined to bring charges, but in an unusual reversal, they were overruled by a prosecutorial review panel composed of ordinary citizens.
In all of these cases, the pivotal issues facing the court are (1) whether TEPCO and the state could have foreseen the danger posed to the Fukushima plant by a tsunami on the order of that triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and (2) whether they could realistically have prevented a serious accident through risk-mitigation measures. The “state” in this case is the defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the regulatory body formerly in charge of the inspection and licensing of nuclear power facilities.
Construction of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station began in 1967, when the government’s ambitious nuclear energy development program was shifting into high gear. Seismology and tsunami simulation have advanced considerably since those days, but at the time, the maximum height of any potential tsunami relevant to the Fukushima Daiichi site was estimated at a little more than 3 meters. When the facility was built, in other words, there was no way for TEPCO or the government to foresee that waves 10–15 meters in height could one day inundate the plant.
However, as scientists continued to collect and analyze data on earthquake and tsunami activity around Japan, their thinking evolved. In July 2002, a government panel of seismologists issued a report estimating a 20% chance that a magnitude-8 earthquake would trigger a dangerous tsunami off the coast of northeastern Japan within the next three decades. That August, NISA asked TEPCO to conduct a tsunami simulation for Fukushima Daiichi and other plants on the basis of that report, but TEPCO refused, and NISA did not press the matter.
When TEPCO finally did conduct such a simulation in 2008, it concluded that a major earthquake could trigger a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters, tall enough to flood the Fukushima Daiichi plant. However, the utility took no action to mitigate the risk (as by building up the facility’s seawalls or taking other measures to protect backup generators), and it failed to report the findings to NISA until early 2011, just weeks before the disaster.
Complacency and Opacity
In the wake of the Fukushima accident, NISA (since replaced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority) was faulted for its lack of independence. The agency was under the authority of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which promotes the use of nuclear power, and officials maintain that its regulatory powers were limited. In addition, a closed, inbred environment encouraged unhealthy ties between NISA and the electric power industry. As a consequence, NISA had fallen into the habit of accommodating and supporting the utilities instead of overseeing them. TEPCO, for its part, had developed a deeply rooted culture of denial, habitually concealing information that might supply ammunition to anti-nuclear activists or fuel fears among the local citizenry. The company brushed off the warnings, convincing itself that the danger from a giant tsunami was purely hypothetical.
So far, district courts have reached decisions on three major class-action suits, and in each case they have agreed with the plaintiffs that the state and TEPCO could have foreseen the danger from a major tsunami once the 2002 report on earthquake risks was released. Two of the district courts, Maebashi and Fukushima, found both the state and TEPCO negligent for failing to prevent the meltdowns. The Chiba District Court, on the other hand, dismissed claims against the state on the grounds that the government was focusing on earthquake safety at the time and may not have been able to formulate effective measures in time to protect Fukushima Daiichi against the March 2011 tsunami. With the government and TEPCO girding up to appeal the lower courts’ decisions, the cases could drag on for years.
The final verdicts could have important ramifications in a country prone to natural disasters. Despite the scientific advances of the last few decades, our ability to predict major earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanic eruptions remains extremely limited. How can we ensure that the design and operation of existing nuclear power plants reflect the latest scientific assessments of long-term risks? Are the government and industry responsible for guarding against catastrophic events, however low their probability?
A Tsunami of Lawsuits
Attorney Managi Izutarō estimates that more than 10,000 plaintiffs are currently involved in class-action suits against TEPCO and the state. He represents 4,200 victims in the largest of these cases so far. Managi argues that allowing TEPCO to keep Fukushima Daiichi operating after learning of the risks from a tsunami was “like giving an airline permission to fly an unsafe jetliner.”
In its ruling on Managi’s case last October, the Fukushima District Court agreed that both TEPCO and the state were negligent and ordered damages paid to a majority of the plaintiffs. But the victims and their lawyers deemed the amount and scope of the damages inadequate and opted to appeal. TEPCO and the state have appealed the ruling as well.
The case now moves to the Sendai High Court. “Ultimately, we’re demanding that Fukushima Prefecture be restored to the way it was before the nuclear accident,” Managi explains. “At the same time, we’re fighting to end the use of nuclear power.”
Managi stresses the importance of mobilizing a large number of victims. “Unless you get together a big group of plaintiffs, their case won’t resonate with the judges,” says Managi. “The number of people involved in litigation and the intensity of public sentiment are key. I believe the real battle takes place outside the courtroom.”
In organizing victims into large class-action suits, Managi and others lawyers are following the same playbook that helped turn the tide against big industrial polluters in the 1960s and 1970s, when victims of Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) and itai-itai disease (cadmium poisoning) succesfully banded together to seak legal redress. Whether the current movement will have a comparable impact remains to be seen.
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Lawyer Managi Izutarō is representing 4,200 former Fukushima residents in a class-action suit against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Fighting Nuclear Power, One Plant at a Time
On a different but related front, citizens’ groups and other plaintiffs are vigorously pursuing lawsuits and injunctions aimed directly at shutting down nuclear power plants around the country.
Efforts to block nuclear energy development through legal action date all the way back to the 1970s. Prominent among these early cases was a citizens’ suit challenging the legality of the license granted to Shikoku Electric Power Co. to build and operate the Ikata Nuclear Power Station in Ehime Prefecture. In that case, lawyers called into question the fundamental safety of the facility, given its location near the Median Tectonic Line fault zone. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court, which finally ruled against the plaintiffs in 1992.
Safety concerns are at the core of the 30-odd “anti-nuclear” suits and injunctions currently before the nation’s courts (as of January 2018). Most cite the potential danger from major earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or tsunami, while others are calling for suspension of operations on the grounds of inadequate evacuation planning. While a few of these cases date back to the pre-Fukushima era, the majority were filed in the wake of the accident.
In December last year, the Hiroshima High Court issued an injunction suspending operations of the number 3 reactor at the aforementioned Ikata Nuclear Power Station. In its decision, the court cited the danger posed to the Shikoku facility from a massive eruption of Mount Aso, all the way across the sea in Kyūshū. Although an eruption on this scale has not occurred in recorded history, the court opined that the risk was sufficient to make the site unsuitable for a nuclear power plant. The decision did not go down well with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which had cleared the plant for resumption of operations under new, post-Fukushima safety standards.
At present, almost all of Japan’s operable nuclear power plants are in the midst of some kind of litigation. In one case, the plaintiff is a local government: The city of Hakodate in Hokkaidō has filed a lawsuit to block the construction and operation of the Ōma Nuclear Power Station across the Tsugaru Strait in Aomori Prefecture.
Status of Japan’s Operable Nuclear Reactors
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Note: All six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were decommissioned between 2011 and 2014.
Lawyers on a Mission
Lawyers Kawai Hiroyuki and Kaido Yūichi have been key figures in the fight against nuclear power since before the Fukushima accident. In the wake of the disaster, they founded the National Network of Counsels in Cases against Nuclear Power Plants, a group that has been pursuing legal action against nuclear facilities on behalf of citizens and other plaintiffs nationwide.
 
Kawai and Kaido are also representing the shareholders of TEPCO, who are suing the company’s former executives for an unprecedented ¥5.5 trillion. In addition, as lawyers for the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, the two attorneys are working alongside the prosecuting team in the criminal case against three TEPCO executives, which parallels the civil suit in terms of arguments, evidence, and testimony.
 
Even so, the trial—which officially opened last June and is expected to continue at least through the coming summer—is expected to attract intense media coverage as witness examinations begin this spring. More than 20 witnesses are scheduled to testify. The case also involves a massive volume of documentary evidence, including records of interviews conducted by the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, along with countless pages of emails, internal memos, meeting minutes, and reports. Will all this information shed new light on the human factors behind the Fukushima accident? The nation will be watching closely.

Tepco sets sights on global expansion

26 February 2018
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Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) aims to become an innovative global energy and technology company, according to its president, Tomoaki Kobayakawa. He stressed the company will continue providing strong support for the restoration of Fukushima.
Tepco is Japan’s largest power company, supplying energy to the greater Kanto area, including the country’s two biggest cities, Tokyo and Yokohama. As well as the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tepco also owns the Fukushima Daini and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plants.
Speaking at a press conference held on 16 February at the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Kobayakawa said Tepco faces challenges posed by the deregulation of Japan’s energy markets, the country’s declining population, and the need to continue clean-up work in Fukushima Prefecture.
Tepco will continue its transformation from a local utility into an innovative global energy and technology company, partnering with other leaders around the world, Kobayakawa said.
Tepco aims to increase its revenue by JPY500 billion (USD4.7 billion) per year, generating a total of JPY450 billion in profit over the next decade.
Kobayakawa said this would be achieved through streamlining businesses and cost reduction, reorganisation and integration of nuclear power and distribution, as well as forming alliances with partners. Tepco will create businesses in new areas, which will create a value chain from fuel upstream to thermal generation and bundling the sale of electricity and natural gas.
Kobayakawa said Tepco’s parent company – Tepco Holdings – will create a management committee during the coming fiscal year to formulate a detailed plan for achieving its aim.
“Our main mission is guaranteeing the delivery of a stable supply of low-cost electricity to customers,” he said. “Within that mission, nuclear power is not everything. Thermal power, the procurement of renewable energy, and hydropower all play a part.”
“Renewables are an essential component of our future,” Kobayakawa said. “We believe we can scale up our renewables business to create a new source of revenue comparable to JERA.”
JERA is a 50/50 joint venture formed between Tepco and Chubu Electric Power Company in April 2015. The main business areas of JERA are: upstream fuel investments; fuel procurement; fuel transportation; fuel trading; replacement and construction of domestic thermal power plants; overseas power generation and energy infrastructure.
However, Kobayakawa stressed the focus on the future will not come at the expense of Tepco’s obligations to its past. Noting the steady improvement of the situation both inside the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and in the surrounding area, Kobayakawa affirmed the corporate mission to rebuild communities and restore the trust of the residents, including efforts to support the sale of products from Fukushima Prefecture.
In May 2012, the Japanese government approved amendments to Tepco’s ten-year special business plan which effectively puts it under state control. Under the amendments, the government provided Tepco with JPY1 trillion in state funds in return for a 51% stake in the company.
In 2014, Tepco was reorganised into two main sections: a power generation business and a separate division dedicated to decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi site.
A further reorganisation followed in April 2016, with Tepco being structured under Tepco Holdings. Its fuel and thermal generation operations were placed in a subsidiary called Tepco Fuel and Power Incorporated; its power transmission and distribution business became Tepco Power Grid Incorporated; and its electricity retail operations became Tepco Energy Partner Incorporated. Its nuclear-related operations remained within the holding company.