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Fukushima nuclear disaster: ex-bosses of owner Tepco ordered to pay ¥13tn

Firm’s president at time of disaster among four defendants found liable for $95 billion in damage by Tokyo court

The then Tepco president, Masataka Shimizu, left, and its executive vice-president Takashi Fujimoto enter a press conference on 13 March 2011

A court in Japan has ordered former executives of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay ¥13tn (£80bn) in damages for failing to prevent a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.

The ruling by Tokyo district court centred on whether senior Tepco management could have predicted a serious nuclear accident striking the facility after a powerful tsunami.

Four defendants, including Tepco’s president at the time of the disaster, Masataka Shimizu, were ordered to pay the sum, while a fifth was not found liable for damages, according to the Kyodo news agency.

The plant in Fukushima, 150 miles north of Tokyo, experienced meltdowns in three of its six reactors after it was struck by a tsunami on 11 March 2011, flooding the backup generators.

The tsunami, which was triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake, killed more than 18,000 people along Japan’s north-east coast.

The meltdowns at Fukushima, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chornobyl 25 years earlier, caused massive radiation leaks and forced the evacuation of more than 150,000 people living nearby – some of who have only recently been given permission to return to their homes.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2012 by 48 Tepco shareholders, is the first to find company executives liable for damages connected to the Fukushima disaster, which shook Japan’s faith in nuclear energy and resulted in widespread closures of atomic power plants.

The plaintiffs had sought a record ¥22tn in damages. The executives found liable are unlikely to have the capacity to pay the full amount, according to media reports, but will be expected to pay as much as their assets allow.

Tepco did not comment on the ruling, saying it would not respond to individual lawsuits, according to Kyodo.

The court said the company’s countermeasures against tsunami “fundamentally lacked safety awareness and a sense of responsibility”.

Tepco has argued it was powerless to take precautions against a tsunami of the size that struck in March 2011, and that it had done everything possible to protect the plant. But an internal company document revealed in 2015 that it had been aware of the need to improve the facility’s defences against tsunami more than two years before the disaster, but had failed to take action.

Plaintiffs also cited a government report that showed Tepco had predicted in June 2008 that the Fukushima plant could be hit by tsunami waves of up to 15.7 metres in height after a major offshore earthquake.

The court said the government’s assessment had been reliable enough to oblige Tepco to take preventive measures.

July 16, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , ,

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