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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 September 18 - 24  > Court acquits 3 ex-TEPCO executives of negligence in failing to prevent Fukushima nuclear meltdowns
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2019 September 18 - 24 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Court acquits 3 ex-TEPCO executives of negligence in failing to prevent Fukushima nuclear meltdowns

September 20, 2019

The Tokyo District Court on September 19 absolved three ex-executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company, including former president Katsumata Tsunehisa, of negligence in failing to prevent the 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

A trio of ex-TEPCO executives were brought to court in 2016 by court-appointed lawyers in place of state prosecutors in line with a prosecution inquest committee’s decision.

The most controversial point in this legal battle is whether it was impossible for the three to be aware of the risk that the Fukushima NPP could be hit by a tsunami exceeding ten meters in height.

In the trial, the appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors claimed that the three defendants should have foreseen the nuclear disaster based on official data regarding the long-term evaluation of seismic hazards which was released in 2002, but the three failed to implement preventive measures against quake-resultant tsunamis, such as the installation of barriers against tsunamis and flooding.

The court in its decision did not pay attention to the appointed lawyers’ claims. It stated that the only certainty at this point is that if the Fukushima NPP had gone offline in early March 2011, it could have avoided the nuclear meltdowns. In this context, the court decision indicated that the 2002 data failed to motivate the trio to carefully prepare for potential disasters associated with a nuclear emergency.

At a press conference after the court ruling, the prosecutors criticized the judicial tribunal as being compliant to the state’s nuclear energy policy. They said that it is unacceptable to release top executives of NPP operators from their responsibility in regard to lack of preparedness for a possible nuclear accident.

Meanwhile, in front of the court building, anti-nuclear power activists held a rally in protest against the judicial decision. Head of a civil group pursuing the former TEPCO executives’ responsibility Muto Ruiko said that the court does not sincerely face up to Fukushima victims’ hardships.

A 47-year-old woman, who was evacuated from Fukushima to Kyoto, said, “If this judgement is allowed under Japan’s judicial system, this means that citizens have no way to protect their interests and human rights from corporate greed protected by power.”

Past related article:
> Ex-TEPCO executives indicted for Fukushima nuclear meltdown [March 1, 2016]
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