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Court rules Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable, increases liabilities

Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable, court rules, with more damages claims likely

Government and company Tepco ordered to pay some damages for 2011 event, but ruling could spur further claims

Plaintiffs and their supporters march in Japan ahead of the court ruling in Sendai on the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster on Wednesday.

Oct 1, 2020

A Japanese court has found the government and Tepco, the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, negligent for failing to take measures to prevent the 2011 nuclear disaster, and ordered them to pay 1bn yen ($9.5m) in damages to thousands of residents for their lost livelihoods.

The ruling on Wednesday by Sendai high court could open up the government to further damage claims because thousands of other residents evacuated as reactors at the coastal power station overheated and released a radioactive cloud, following the devastating tsunami. While some people have returned home, areas close to the plant are still off limits.

The plaintiffs had sought monthly compensation of about 50,000 yen ($470) per person until radiation levels subside to pre-disaster levels, seeking a total of 28bn yen ($265m).

The plaintiffs’ head lawyer, Izutaro Managi, hailed the ruling as a major victory, saying: “We ask the government to extend relief measures as soon as possible, not only for the plaintiffs but for all victims based on the damage they suffered.”

The latest ruling follows 13 lower court decisions, which were divided over government responsibility in the disaster. The latest ruling doubles the amount of damages against Tepco ordered by a lower court in 2017

In 2011, 3,550 plaintiffs were forced to flee their homes after a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a tsunami that devastated the country’s north-east and crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, known as the triple disaster.

Decommissioning work is underway at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, north-eastern Japan.

Radiation that spewed from the plant’s melted reactors contaminated the surrounding areas, forcing about 160,000 residents to evacuate at one point. More than 50,000 are still displaced because of lingering safety concerns. The plant is being decommissioned, a process expected to take decades.

The court said that the government could have taken measures to protect the site, based on expert assessments available in 2002 that indicated the possibility of a tsunami of more than 15 metres, reported public broadcaster NHK, which aired footage of the plaintiffs celebrating outside the court after the ruling.

The government has yet to say whether it will appeal in the supreme court against the decision. “We will consider the ruling and take appropriate action,” chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said after the ruling.

Officials at Tepco were unavailable when Reuters tried to reach them outside regular business hours.

In court, the government argued it was impossible to predict the tsunami or prevent the subsequent disaster. Tepco said it had fulfilled its compensation responsibility under government guidelines.

Plaintiffs said the ruling brought some justice, but that their lives could never return to normal and their struggle was far from over.

“For more than nine years, I have planted seeds on the contaminated soil and grown vegetables, always worrying about the effects of radiation,” plaintiff Kazuya Tarukawa, a farmer from Sukagawa in Fukushima, said at a meeting after the ruling. “Our contaminated land will never be the same.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/01/fukushima-nuclear-disaster-preventable-court-rules-with-more-damages-claims-likely?fbclid=IwAR36150Www7rdCRHKktTAwu57KZ3tOYGqCCm5pczYANUxAnF3aLgvQq7ngs

Court increases state liability, compensation for nuclear disaster

Plaintiffs hold up signs in front of the Sendai High Court on Sept. 30 stating victory in their lawsuit against the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

October 1, 2020

SENDAI—A high court here on Sept. 30 more than doubled the amount of compensation awarded to victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and issued a scathing critique against the central government for its inaction.

The Sendai High Court found the central government equally at fault as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. for failing to take anti-tsunami measures and ordered the defendants to pay a total of about 1.01 billion yen ($9.6 million) to around 3,550 evacuees and residents living in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere.

It was the first high court ruling in various lawsuits seeking compensation from TEPCO and the central government for the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused by a quake-triggered tsunami in March 2011.

In October 2017, the Fukushima District Court ordered the defendants to pay about 500 million yen to about 2,900 evacuees. That decision was appealed to the Sendai High Court, which increased both the compensation amount and the number of recipients.

“We won a total victory over the central government and TEPCO,” Izutaro Managi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said. “The effect on the various lawsuits to be decided in the future will be huge.”

A major point of contention in the case was a long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes released by the science ministry’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002. The report pointed out that Fukushima Prefecture could be hit by a major tsunami.

The high court found the assessment to be a “scientific finding that had a considerable level of objective and rational basis,” making it an important perspective that differed greatly from various views presented by individual scholars or private-sector organizations.

The court ruled that if the economy minister at the time had immediately ordered TEPCO to calculate the height of a possible tsunami, a forecast could have been made of the likelihood of a tsunami striking the nuclear plant.

But the ruling said, “The regulatory authority did not fulfill the role that was expected of it” and that “not exercising regulatory powers was a violation of the law regarding state compensation.”

The Fukushima District Court found that the central government only had a secondary responsibility to oversee the utility.

The high court, however, ruled that the government had the same level of responsibility. It said both the central government and TEPCO avoided making tsunami calculations because they feared the effects that would arise if the urgent measures were taken.

The high court ruling also expanded the range of plaintiffs who could receive compensation to people living in the Aizu district of Fukushima Prefecture as well as Miyagi and Tochigi prefectures where evacuation orders were not issued.

Experts said the high court ruling is a game-changer because of the positive assessment given to the long-term evaluation about possible tsunami.

Other district courts have ruled that the central government was not responsible because even if it had ordered measures to be taken, there would not have been enough time to complete such steps to prevent damage from the tsunami.

“Plaintiffs in the other lawsuits have provided testimony at a similar level so this could turn the tide in the recent trend of plaintiffs losing their cases,” said Masafumi Yokemoto, a professor of environmental policy at Osaka City University who is knowledgeable about nuclear plant issues.

Yotaro Hatamura, a professor emeritus of engineering at the University of Tokyo who headed the government panel that investigated the Fukushima nuclear accident, said, “This was an unprecedented ruling that pointed out in a rational manner the stance of both the central government and TEPCO of not looking at data that they did not want to see.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at his Sept. 30 news conference that the central government would carefully go over the court ruling before making a decision on whether to appeal.

TEPCO also issued a statement with similar wording.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13777556?fbclid=IwAR36TBfK7X8gdO1FuWLG0rLq0XhEN3hofWwWufZ1bjHuPk3CJcUvXu1WCOM

October 2, 2020 - Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. AMAZINGGGG !!

    Comment by Colorful Sisters | October 2, 2020 | Reply

  2. Glad to see an acknowledgement by the court of the preventability of the Fukushima disaster—the willingness of government to not look at potentially negative data, the antithesis of responsible regulation (“[B]oth the central government and TEPCO avoided making tsunami calculations because they feared the effects that would arise if the urgent measures were taken.”)
    Here in the U.S.A., we see “regulatory capture” of agencies by the industries that they regulate and from which they get the majority of their budgets—NRC, FERC, etc. It seems that we are not alone. One example was recently presented by a witness at a People’s Hearing about FERC’s failings: an inspector who, even on an on-site visit, refused to measure the slope of land in a frequent-landslide area where potential erosion was an issue for a proposed pipeline.

    Comment by njsally | October 3, 2020 | Reply


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