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June 17 Supreme Court Decision: What is the Responsibility of the State? Four lawsuits by victims of the nuclear power plant accident

April 25, 2022 Plaintiffs entering the Supreme Court.

June 17, 2022

A class action lawsuit brought by victims of the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, seeking compensation for damages, as well as pursuing responsibility on the part of the government and TEPCO. About 30 lawsuits have been filed in various parts of Japan, with plaintiffs numbering approximately 10,000. Of these, four of the lawsuits (the Ikigyo lawsuit (Fukushima), Gunma, Chiba, and Ehime) will have their appeals heard by the Supreme Court’s Second Petty Bench today, January 17. The Supreme Court’s decision, the first regarding the government’s responsibility for the nuclear accident, will be the focus of much attention. The victims of the nuclear power plant accident from all over Japan, who became plaintiffs in the class action lawsuits, spent their days of anticipation and anxiety in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision on the 17th.

A series of small episodes

I would like the court to decide that the government is responsible, but with the current situation in the country, I don’t know if the court will make a decision that the government was not at fault,” he said. So there is a fear that such a thing may happen.

 Shigeaki Konno, 84, spoke in Hamadori on the 15th, two days before the Supreme Court ruling.

 Mr. Konno is from Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture. He was forced to evacuate after the nuclear accident and is currently living in Fukushima City. Give us back our community, give us back our livelihood! He has been fighting for more than nine years since March 2013 as the deputy leader of the plaintiffs in the “Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Lawsuit (Livelihood Lawsuit).

Shigeaki Konno

Konno-san begins a little happily, “I’m anxious, but the other day, April 25, during the Supreme Court arguments, …… There was a judge there from the Sendai High Court.”

 April 25 was the day the Supreme Court arguments in the Ikigyo lawsuit were held, and Mr. Konno was in the audience. He was in the waiting room of the Supreme Court when he happened to meet a judge from the Sendai High Court.

I think I broke my leg, and I couldn’t go home from the hearing. I went to the waiting room with him by my sides and sat there for a while. Then the judge came from the other side and saw my face and must have recognized me. He said, “It’s Mr. Konno,” and “Thank you very much for your help.

By “thank you for your help,” he meant the on-site inspection. On May 27, 2019, the presiding judge of the Sendai High Court and other judges visited Mr. Konno’s home and other sites in Namie Town to verify the actual damage and conditions. Subsequently, the second trial court of the Sendai High Court ruled that the government and TEPCO were responsible, following the first trial court’s decision.

The judge said, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a judge call out to me. Thanks to judges like that, we made it all the way to the Supreme Court.”

 Mr. Konno shared the episode with us with a laugh, saying that he and the plaintiffs and their lawyers were talking about good fortune and that they might win the Supreme Court, too.

Sendai High Court judges visit Ms. Konno’s home

It was rare for a judge to visit the site at the high court stage. In the Ikigyo lawsuit, both the first and second trial were conducted by the judge. The lawyer Gentaro Managi, the executive director of the lawyers’ group for the Ikigyo lawsuit, described the efforts that led to the on-site inspection as follows.

We were the first in Japan to conduct on-site inspections in a nuclear accident case, so we spent a lot of time negotiating with the judge at the first hearing, asking if we could go to the site. We are not seeking a verdict without an on-site inspection,’ he continued, ‘If we go to the site, the town hall of Namie Town will provide us with a place to have lunch in the town hall building,’ ‘We also met with the mayor of Futaba Town, and he has agreed to help us,’ and ‘Tomioka Town I told them about our plan, and they said, “You can park your car here and see this facility. (Laughs.) It took two years and a lot of persistence and energy to get the judge to conduct the site inspection.

Also, at the time of the on-site inspection at the first hearing, there was this incident.

On the day of the Nakadori inspection, it was raining lightly. The judge was wearing a rain gown, but without a hood, he was wet. One of the plaintiffs noticed this and asked the judge to put his hood up, but the judge said, ‘If you put your hood up, I won’t be able to hear what you are saying.

 This episode shows the judge’s attitude of listening to the plaintiffs’ thoughts and feelings. Many such small episodes have accumulated over the past nine years of the fight. The lawyers and plaintiffs have held more than 500 meetings in and outside of Fukushima Prefecture to gather plaintiffs, collected signatures before the verdict, and after the verdict, have repeatedly visited ministries and political parties to realize relief for the victims.

A Pregnancy Full of Anxiety

 One of the plaintiffs, Maya Kobayashi, 38, who lives in the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture, was raising her 18-month-old son at the time of the nuclear accident. The Aizu region was not ordered to evacuate by the government and was not compensated in any way. However, the area was not free of radioactive contamination, even in the municipality where Ms. Kobayashi lives, where there were restrictions on the shipment and consumption of vegetables.

There was a time when I was worried about the water I turned on. When I told my friends about it, they said, ‘If you talk like that, you can’t even wash your clothes.

 I didn’t talk about the nuclear power plant accident much anymore,” she said.

At the time of the nuclear accident, she lived with her husband, their son, her husband’s grandmother, and her husband’s father (father-in-law). They were raising their children and running their own business in an area rich in nature, with rice paddies behind their house and a crystal clear river nearby.

 It was on March 12 that she learned of the dangers of the nuclear accident. she saw on social networking sites that the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was in a dangerous situation. For a moment, Mr. Kobayashi wondered if she should evacuate, but without a sense of reality, she was busy dealing with the shortage of supplies needed for her business.

 On March 13, she left her son with her father-in-law and visited her mother in Nakadori to bring her some food, only to find out about a week later that she was pregnant with her second son. Ms. Kobayashi regretted leaving Nakadori at a time when radiation levels were high.

 After finding out that she was pregnant and seeing images of the explosion on TV reports and other media, she discussed with her husband whether it would be better to evacuate. However, her husband’s grandmother needed assistance with toileting and her father-in-law had Parkinson’s disease, so evacuation was unrealistic.

 Therefore, they began to live inconveniently, trying to avoid exposure to radiation as much as possible.

 The day-care center where my son was taken care of was located near a bank, and after receiving information that the grass and bank were accumulating radioactive materials, I hardly let him go to the center and had him leave at the end of March 2011. After that, we sent him to a day-care center in the city center and did not allow him to play outside at all within our sight. Because she was pregnant, she asked her husband to do the delivery work for her own business and avoided going out as much as possible. She did not hang her laundry outside and cleaned the house frequently.

 In order to avoid internal exposure from food, she chose foods from far away as much as possible, looked for old rice at the supermarket, and bought drinking water. She had taken for granted the delicious rice harvested in the rice paddies behind her house, and she regretted …… why she had to go to the trouble of eating stale rice.

 Mrs. Kobayashi was not the only one forced to live in such inconvenience at the time. Many parents and children I have met in and outside of Fukushima prefecture have told me that they had to put up with it in order to avoid radioactive materials. And many have evacuated from areas that had not been ordered to evacuate by the government because they could not continue that lifestyle.

 They are worried about the air they breathe and the water they drink,” Kobayashi said.

I spent my pregnancy worrying about the air I breathed and the water I drank. All I could think about was how not to expose my child to radiation and how not to expose myself to radiation. I was filled with anxiety about whether it was really safe to live here, whether my child would be born safely, and whether my son’s health would be affected.

I may never be able to return to my home.

 At the same time, Mr. Konno was being forced to leave the land where his ancestors had lived since the Edo period.

 On the morning of March 12, he and his wife and eldest son evacuated to a high school in the Tsushima district of Namie Town (Tsushima Branch of Namie High School), and then to a relative’s house in Nihonmatsu City, as if driven by the sound of a town public information van announcing “Please evacuate. There, he learned of the nuclear accident for the first time. After that, he spent a month in a gymnasium in Fukushima City as an evacuee.

 Mr. Konno had been opposed to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant even before the nuclear accident. He had joined the lawsuit for an injunction against the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant, arguing that the plant would be in serious trouble if an earthquake occurred. When he learned of the accident, he thought, “Oh, I knew it had happened,” and from an early stage thought, “I may never be able to return home.

I was involved in a local youth group that campaigned against the nuclear power plant,” he said. At first we weren’t against the nuclear power plant, we were against ‘Yo Masu,’ but from there we moved on to the nuclear power plant. I was in my twenties when I was involved in the ‘Yo Masu’ movement.

 Konno-san said.

The “extra mass” refers to the rule that rice cannot be shipped unless an extra few hundred grams are added to the rice before it is shipped. He said that there was a meeting of the local youth group to discuss the absurdity of this rule. That was 60 years ago. About 60 years earlier, in September 1961, the Okuma Town Assembly passed a resolution to invite TEPCO to build the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and a month later, Futaba Town passed a resolution to invite the plant. Even as a young man, Mr. Konno kept his eye on the local community and society.

So …… we wouldn’t have had to evacuate like this if it weren’t for the nuclear power plant,” Konno muses.

 Living in a gymnasium in Fukushima City, he did not get his underwear until the end of March. There was no privacy in the cardboard boxes separating them from each other, and there were long lines to use the restroom and to eat. The only food they had was onigiri (rice balls) and bread, some of which was rotting. He then moved to a guest house in Inawashiro Town, and by the time he moved to rented housing a few months later, his eldest son had rented another house, and his fourth son, who lived nearby, had evacuated to Gunma Prefecture, so his family was scattered.

 The family-like local community, where neighbors shared vegetables and naturally gathered at someone’s house in the evening for a drink, was also lost.


June 18, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , ,

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