Yoshinori Tsuji, right, speaks during a news conference in Osaka’s Kita Ward on March 28, 2017, after the Osaka High Court handed down a decision on the injunction for reactors at Takahama Nuclear Power Plant
OSAKA — A March 28 Osaka High Court ruling that revoked a lower court decision to halt two nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture has angered plaintiffs and local residents as the high court effectively rubberstamped the state’s policy of restarting nuclear reactors.
Some 100 people demanding a halt to the reactors at Takahama Nuclear Power Plant gathered before the Osaka High Court on March 28. When they were informed of the ruling shortly after 3 p.m. with attorneys holding up banners that said, “Unjust ruling” and “The court fails to fulfill residents’ wishes,” the plaintiffs let out a sigh of disappointment.
“What are they thinking about?” “This is absurd,” they said, and shouted, “Resist the high court ruling that disregards Fukushima!” as they raised their fists.
Kenichi Ido, the head attorney for the plaintiffs, criticized the ruling during a news conference, with the over-400-page written court decision in his hand, saying, “While it’s this thick, its contents are just a copy of the views of (Takahama nuclear plant operator) Kansai Electric Power Co. and the Nuclear Regulation Authority.”
He added, “After the March 11 disaster, the judiciary is the only actor that can stop the administration that is railroading the resumption of nuclear power. But I sense that it has no self-awareness of its role or responsibility.”
Yoshinori Tsuji, the representative of the residents in the class action lawsuit, expressed frustration over the latest ruling, saying, “The decision was unjust as the high court took the policies of the central government and the utility into consideration.”
Tsuji also said the Otsu District Court’s injunction order handed down a year ago was a groundbreaking decision which reflected on the Fukushima nuclear disaster. “It further legitimized the authority of the judiciary,” he recalled.
Tsuji then slammed the Osaka High Court, saying, “The high court took a decidedly different stance from the district court with regard to listening to the people’s voices. Shame on them.”
The Takahama reactors site is under 3 miles from Kyoto-fu, 36 miles (58K) from the cultural heritage sites in the ancient capital of Kyoto and closer to the region’s supply of fresh water, Lake Biwa.
Takahama reactors may soon restart after court overturns injunction
Plaintiffs hold banners in front of the Osaka High Court on Tuesday expressing disappointment after the court ruled in favor Kansai Electric over the restart of two Takahama reactors.
OSAKA – The Osaka High Court overturned Tuesday an injunction issued against the restart of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama facility in Fukui Prefecture, paving the way for them to be switched back on.
The landmark injunction issued by the Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture in March last year cited safety concerns for preventing the reactors from restarting even though they were judged to have met new safety regulations set after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear crisis.
While the injunction had been a temporary victory for the plaintiffs in Shiga, some had predicted the Osaka High Court would adhere to a more narrow technical view of nuclear safety.
In his ruling, Judge Ikuo Yamashita said the plaintiffs had the responsibility to prove allegations of any specific dangers that would result in restarting the plant, which the judge ruled they had not.
Part of the plaintiffs’ claim relied on the alleged inadequacy of current evacuation plans in the event of an accident. Therefore, starting up the Takahama reactors, located about 60 km from the city of Kyoto, posed a significant risk, they argued.
Yamashita ruled that measures were being taken in Fukui and that official attitudes and efforts had been proactive, so he could not accept the plaintiffs’ claims.
“Kepco showed proof that they drew up emergency response measures based on the largest scale earthquake and tsunami,” the judge ruled. “The judge’s decision is extremely regrettable,”It’s clear with the decision that no progress has been made in terms of learning the lessons of March 11, 2011,” Kenichi Ido, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said after the verdict was announced. “The attitude of the courts hasn’t changed at all since the Fukushima accident. In particular, the evacuation plans aren’t really being taken into consideration by the courts.”
Yoshinori Tsuji, one of the chief plaintiffs, said: “In America and South Korea, the courts are defying the presidents of both countries. But in Japan, the courts — which were ignoring the wishes of the people to stop nuclear power before March 11, 2011 — fail to reflect on what happened then. The courts follow the wishes of the nuclear power lobby and the government.”
Kansai electric officials welcomed the decision, saying at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Osaka the utility would move towards preparing to restart, although they did not say when the reactors were expected to go back online.
“With safety as the top priority, the period for restarts is not yet set,” Kepco president Shigeki Iwane said. He added that once the restarts took place, the firm would move to reduce electricity prices.
In Kansai region, reaction to the court’s verdict was mixed. Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, a strong supporter of nuclear power, was relieved with the decision, saying it was a return to a reasonable and correct decision by the court system.
But in neighboring Shiga prefecture, Gov. Taizo Mikazuki said that, given more immediate concerns Japan’s nuclear power industry faces, including spent fuel storage and decommissioning of old reactors, it was the wrong environment to approve reactor restarts. Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada emphasized that the utmost had to be done to ensure safety.
Higher court backs restart of halted Takahama reactors
The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, from left to right, are pictured in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, on June 15, 2016.
OSAKA (Kyodo) — A Japanese high court on Tuesday revoked a lower court order to halt two nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in central Japan, accepting an appeal by Kansai Electric Power Co. against the first injunction ever issued in the country to shut operating reactors.
But it is unlikely that the operation of other nuclear reactors in Japan will be resumed soon due to pending legal matters, analysts say.
The decision, made by the Osaka High Court, legally allows Kansai Electric to resume operating the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the nuclear power plant on the Sea of Japan coast in Fukui Prefecture. The two reactors have been idled for around a year.
The higher court said that quake-resistance standards were not overestimated under tougher regulations set following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and that necessary measures have been taken to prevent significant damage of the reactor core.
The latest decision bodes well for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has been promoting the restart of nuclear reactors in a bid to bolster the economy by cutting the cost of fossil fuels and exporting nuclear technology abroad.
Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said at a press conference in Tokyo, “We want Kansai Electric to put top priority on safety and make every effort to obtain understanding from the local government and others involved.”
Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane said at a news conference in Osaka that his company has yet to decide when to restart the operation of Takahama’s Nos. 3 and 4 reactors, pledging to “make safety our top priority.”
Iwane also expressed eagerness to push down electric charges as soon as possible after the resumption of the two reactors.
A group of residents in neighboring Shiga Prefecture who won the landmark injunction from the Otsu District Court in March last year are expected to consider countermeasures, including filing a special appeal with the Supreme Court.
Amid widespread concern about the safety of nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, the residents in Shiga filed a request with the district court in January 2015, seeking an order halting the two reactors at the plant.
On March 9, 2016, the district court ordered operation of the two nuclear reactors to be halted, casting doubts about the utility’s safety measures and Japan’s post-Fukushima nuclear regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
Last July, Kansai Electric filed an appeal against a district court decision rejecting its request to suspend the injunction order.
In Tuesday’s decision, the Osaka High Court determined that the post-Fukushima safety measures were “not unreasonable” because they were devised on the basis of the “latest scientific and technical knowledge” that reflects lessons learned from the nuclear disaster.
The utility has criticized the injunction, claiming it was not an objective judgment based on scientific knowledge. It also says the injunction is costing the utility 200 million to 300 million yen ($1.8 million to $2.7 million) more per day to generate power from other fuel.
Kansai Electric removed nuclear fuel from the Takahama reactors between August and September last year given the prolonged court battle.
As of Tuesday, only three of Japan’s 42 commercial reactors nationwide are now operating — the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, and the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, according to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
On Thursday, the Hiroshima District Court is set to rule on an appeal filed to halt the operation of the No.3 reactor at the Ikata power plant, the first ruling since it resumed operations in August last year.
The Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant
Japan court rules in favor of restart of Kansai Elec’s Takahama reactors
A Japanese high court on Tuesday overturned a lower court’s order to shut two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power, a company spokesman said, potentially ending a drawn-out legal battle and helping the utility to cut fuel costs.
The decision, while positive for Kansai Electric, is not likely to speed the broader process of getting reactors back online nationally after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of six years ago, said a former advisor to the government and others.
“The future of nuclear power is still uncertain. The decision does not mean that the courts will give a ‘yes’ to other legal cases. Political uncertainty remains strong, too,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a government body.
The Osaka High Court overturned the first court-ordered shutdown of an operating nuclear plant in Japan. The lower court had decided last year in favor of residents living near the Takahama atomic station west of Tokyo after they had petitioned for the reactors at the plant to be shut.
The restart schedule for the reactors, however, is still uncertain because the utility has been conducting safety checks requested by local authorities after a large crane toppled onto another reactor building at the site due to strong winds in January, a Kansai Electric spokesman said earlier.
The Kansai case was one of many going through the courts after the Japanese public turned away from nuclear power following the Fukushima meltdowns of 2011, the world’s worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986.
Just three out of Japan’s 42 operable reactors are running and the pace of restarts has been protracted despite strong support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which is keen to restore a power source that provided about a third of electricity supply before the Fukushima disaster.
“We are going to win some and we are going to lose some, but the political and social situation is such that unstable prospects for restarts are here to stay,” Aileen Mioko Smith, an advisor to the plaintiffs and a co-plaintiff in other lawsuits, told Reuters by phone from Osaka.
Court sends a shockwave through Japan’s nuclear establishment with ruling on Fukushima accident.
A writing inside Ukedo elementary school, damaged by the March 11, 2011 tsunami, is seen near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 1, 2017.
Japan’s atomic power establishment is in shock following the court ruling on Friday that found the state and the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant liable for failing to take preventive measures against the tsunami that crippled the facility.
The reason for the shock is the ruling has wide-ranging implications for Japan’s entire nuclear power industry and the efforts to restart reactors throughout the country.
Judges in the Maebashi District Court in Gunma prefecture ruled that Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) and the government were aware of the earthquake and tsunami risks to the Fukushima Daiichi plant prior to the 2011 triple reactor meltdown, but failed to take preventative measures.
The decision was welcomed by the 137 Fukushima citizens who filed the lawsuit in 2014. What needs to be remembered is a further 28 civil and criminal lawsuits in 18 prefectures across Japan are pending. They involve more than 10,000 citizens and include a shareholder claim seeking compensation of 5.5 trillion yen (US$49 billion).
Map of Japan’s nuclear plants
Tepco is already a de facto bankrupt, has been effectively nationalized and now faces the unprecedented challenges of how to remove three melted reactors at the Fukushima plant.
Six years after the disaster it still faces unanswered questions about the precise causes of the accident, questions that have generated public opposition to Tepco restarting reactors at another plant in Kashiwazki-kariwa in Niigata prefecture, on the opposite coastline to Fukushima.
Beside the court ruling being yet another blow to Tepco’s efforts to recover from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the judgement will be highly disruptive to plans by the government and utilities to restart nuclear reactors in Japan.
In the court ruling, the judges found that science-based evidence of major risks to the nuclear plant was “foreseen” but ignored and not acted upon by Japan’s government and Tepco.
The evidence included a 2002 government assessment that concluded there was a 20% risk of a magnitude 8 or greater earthquake off the coast of northeastern Japan within 30 years. This includes the sea bed area off the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Further, the plaintiffs cited a 2008 internal Tepco report ‘Tsunami Measures Unavoidable’ which included the likelihood of a potential 15.7 meter tsunami hitting the Fukushima nuclear site.
The court ruled that if the government had used its regulatory powers to make Tepco take countermeasures, such as installing seawalls, against such an event, the nuclear disaster could have been avoided.
While the judges in Gunma prefecture have concluded that ignoring evidence of risk can have devastating consequences, that does not seem to be the approach of the nuclear utilities or the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).
Over the last four years, the NRA has demonstrated a tendency to ignore evidence of risks to nuclear plants that have made applications to restart reactors shut down after the Fukushima disaster, and to bend to the demands of the nuclear power companies and the government.
A total of 26 reactors have applied for NRA review, of which seven have passed and four more will likely be approved this year.
In each case, the NRA has failed to apply a robust approach to assessing risks. It has chose to screen out seismic faults that threaten nuclear plants, failed to follow recommendations from international safety guidelines, and accepted selective evidence on volcanic risks.
In the case of the three forty-year old reactors at Takahama and Mihama, the NRA approved the reactors, while granting the utility an exemption from demonstrating that the reactors primary circuit can meet the 2013 post Fukushima revised safety guidelines, until a later date.
All of these safety issues have the potential when things go wrong — see Fukushima — to lead to severe accidents, including reactor core meltdown.
District courts have issued injunctions against reactor restarts in Fukui prefecture, and in a historic ruling in March 2016 a court in Shiga prefecture ordered the immediate shutdown of the Takahama 3 and 4 reactors.
An appeal court is scheduled to rule on the above in the coming weeks and while it is anticipated that the reactor owner Kansai Electric will likely win, the prospects of further legal action remains.
Next month, for example, the former deputy chair of the NRA, Kunihiko Shimazaki will testify in a lawsuit against the operation of the Ohi reactors owned by Kansai Electric in western Japan.
Shimazeki, emeritus professor of seismology at Tokyo University and the only seismologist to have been an NRA commissioner, has challenged the formulas used by the regulator in computing the scale of earthquakes, which he believes underestimates potential seismic impact by factor of 3.5.
Last July the NRA dismissed Professor Shimazeki’s evidence.
Six years after the start of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, only 3 of Japan’s reactors are currently operating out of the 54 available in 2011.
For any business that runs the risk of its principal cash-generating asset being shut down at any point and for an extended period through legal challenges, the future does not look bright — unless you are granted approval to disregard the evidence.
The utilities are hemorrhaging money and therefore run the risk of following the same path as Tepco prior to 2011 in prioritizing cost savings over safety.
Such an approach directly led to the bankruptcy of Tepco, one the worlds largest power companies, and liabilities of at least 21 trillion yen.
The nuclear industry and current government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe understand that to allow robust evidence of safety risks, in particular seismic, to determine the future of operation of reactors would mean the end of nuclear power in Japan.
Citizens from Fukushima with their lawyers and now supported by the judges, have moved Japan one step closer to that eventual scenario.
Shaun Burnie is a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany. He has worked on nuclear issues worldwide for more than three decades, including since 1991 on Japan’s nuclear policy. email@example.com
Voluntary evacuees granted only small awards in Fukushima nuke disaster damage case
While the March 17 Maebashi District Court ruling acknowledged that both the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are liable for the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, it dealt a harsh blow to those who voluntarily evacuated their Fukushima Prefecture homes in the wake of the meltdowns.
The court awarded a total of 38.55 million yen in damages to 62 of the 137 plaintiffs who fled from Fukushima Prefecture to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere — about one-fortieth of the complainants’ total compensation demand of approximately 1.5 billion yen. This was because the court acknowledged to some extent the rationale behind the government-set “interim guidelines” for TEPCO’s compensation payment standards. The court rejected claims made by over half of the plaintiffs, saying that the amount of compensation they are entitled to does not exceed that which has already been paid by TEPCO.
The interim guidelines were set by the education ministry’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation in August 2011 to ensure swift compensation to cover damages common to many residents in the nuclear disaster-hit areas. Based on the guidelines, TEPCO set up standards for compensation payments, such as a monthly payment of 100,000 yen per person for those from evacuation zones and, as a rule, one-off payments of 80,000 yen for each voluntary evacuee. Voluntary evacuees in nuclear disaster class-action suits across the country are arguing that 80,000 yen is too small an amount, considering that leaving Fukushima Prefecture was a reasonable decision.
Some experts have criticized the district court decision, saying that it only confirmed the legitimacy of the interim guidelines. At the same time, the ruling was based on the court’s own calculation for deciding the compensation amount for each plaintiff, which set five “emotional distress” categories to be considered including the feeling of losing one’s hometown.
Nevertheless, the compensation amounts in the ruling differed greatly between the plaintiffs from evacuation zones and voluntary evacuees. Nineteen plaintiffs who used to live in areas under evacuation orders were awarded compensation payments of between 750,000 yen and 3.5 million yen each, while 43 voluntary evacuees were granted awards of between 70,000 yen and 730,000 yen.
One of the plaintiffs who had voluntarily left the city of Iwaki was awarded about 200,000 yen in damages for the 10-day period right after the March 2011 meltdowns. However, the ruling denied that the same woman’s decision to flee Fukushima Prefecture again two months after the meltdowns was rational, saying that high radiation doses were not detected in Iwaki and no other particularly concerning circumstances were present.
Attorney Tsutomu Yonekura of the national liaison association of lawyers representing Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees said of the Maebashi District Court ruling, “The amount of compensation provided for in the ruling remains at the same level as that set in the interim guidelines, even though the court claimed to have independently calculated the compensation payments. It’s not enough as judicial redress.”
Fukushima nuke disaster evacuees disappointed by court’s compensation award
Fukushima Prefecture evacuees in a class action suit over the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster were disappointed by the 38.55 million yen in total compensation awarded on March 17 by the Maebashi District Court, as the amount was just one-fortieth what they had been seeking.
“I was expecting to hear a ruling that would support us more,” one of the plaintiffs said after the verdict, which came 3 1/2 years after they filed the suit and six years after the disaster’s onset.
“We have made the court recognize the responsibility of the central government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). I am honestly happy about that,” plaintiff Sugie Tanji, 60, said to a gathering following the ruling. However, she continued, “The past six years was filled with many hardships. I wonder if I can convince myself to accept the ruling…”
Tanji was a resident of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture. Her 63-year-old husband Mikio ran a repair business, but orders plunged following the No. 1 plant meltdowns. Four months later, the couple voluntarily evacuated to Gunma Prefecture.
Although Tanji felt guilty for leaving fellow residents behind, she took part in anti-nuclear power rallies and demonstrations in Gunma Prefecture and joined the class action suit, believing that there must never be another nuclear disaster.
Of the 137 plaintiffs from 45 households, representatives of almost all the households appeared in court, testifying to the agony of living as evacuees and expressing their anger toward TEPCO and the central government. However, only a few of them have made their names public out of concern for possible discrimination against their children and negative effects on their jobs. Tanji herself recalls being told, “You can get money if you go to court, can’t you?”
Under government guidelines, those who evacuated voluntarily are entitled to only 80,000 yen in consolation money from TEPCO, including living expenses. The plaintiffs thought the amount was far too small considering the pain of losing their hometowns. However, only 62 of the 137 plaintiffs were awarded compensation.
“I was expecting a warmer ruling,” said a woman in her 50s who sat in on the March 17 hearing clad in mourning attire. She was working part-time for a company in Iwaki, but was fired after the nuclear disaster impacted the firm’s business performance.
This and radiation exposure fears prompted her and her husband to evacuate to Gunma Prefecture two months later. Her husband, however, developed a malignant brain tumor the following year, after the couple settled into an apartment that the Gunma Prefectural Government had rented for evacuees. Her husband died in the fall of 2014 at age 52.
The woman says she still doesn’t feel like she can start working and subsists on her savings and survivor’s pension. At the end of March, the Fukushima Prefectural Government is set to terminate its housing subsidies for voluntary evacuees. For her, the compensation awarded by the Maebashi District Court was “unimaginably low.”
“I can’t report the ruling to my husband,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
Gov’t and TEPCO put money before safety at Fukushima nuclear plant: court ruling
The Maebashi District Court ordered the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay damages in a class action lawsuit brought by Fukushima Prefecture residents who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. However, the amount was much smaller than what the plaintiffs had demanded, thereby failing to provide nuclear crisis victims the relief they seek.
On March 17, the Maebashi District Court recognized the responsibility of both the central government and TEPCO, operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. It stated that TEPCO should have been aware that the Fukushima plant could be hit by tsunami approximately nine years prior to the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and that the state failed to order TEPCO to take appropriate anti-tsunami measures despite having the regulatory authority to do so.
“That the court recognized the central government’s liability for compensation is very significant,” the plaintiffs’ lead counsel Katsuyoshi Suzuki said at a rally that was held in Maebashi following the ruling. “It is also extremely important that the court recognized that the state was as culpable as TEPCO.”
The plaintiffs argued that TEPCO could have predicted a massive tsunami and taken measures to prevent a nuclear crisis. They also argued that the government was responsible for promoting the development and use of nuclear power. In its ruling, the court harshly criticized TEPCO, taking into account the far-reaching impacts and dangers of the ongoing nuclear disaster. “The utility must maintain a safety-first policy, but it appears to have placed priority on cost cutting,” the ruling said.
In July 2002, the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion pointed out the possibility that an approximately magnitude 8 earthquake could occur in the Japan Trench, part of which runs along the ocean floor off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. Based on this “long-term evaluation,” TEPCO estimated in 2008 that tsunami with a maximum height of 15.7 meters could hit its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, yet no safety measures based on this estimate were taken.
Instead, TEPCO used a tsunami assessment formula created by the Japan Society of Civil Engineers (JSCE), comprising university professors and power company researchers, which put the height of tsunami that could potentially hit the nuclear plant at a mere 6.1 meters. The tsunami that slammed into the plant on March 11, 2011 hit a maximum height of 15.5 meters.
The Maebashi court took issue with the fact that although TEPCO could have instituted relatively easy anti-tsunami measures, such as relocating its emergency power source to higher ground, it had failed to do so. The Atomic Energy Damage Compensation Law — which stipulates that the business operator, regardless of whether or not they were negligent, must pay damages in the case of a nuclear disaster — was applied to reach the decision. However, the court rejected the claim for compensation based on illegal action under the Civil Code.
The ruling also went into detail regarding the government’s responsibility. In September 2006, the now defunct Nuclear Safety Committee (NSC) laid down new earthquake-resistance standards, and the government instructed TEPCO and other utilities to assess whether their nuclear power plants met the new criteria. However, in August 2007, TEPCO submitted a mid-term report to the government that did not include any anti-tsunami measures. The Maebashi District Court’s ruling pointed out that the government subsequently violated the law by not ordering TEPCO to implement anti-tsunami measures. It also said, “The state was in a position to take the initiative to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and was strongly expected to appropriately exercise its regulatory authority to prevent nuclear disasters.”
Much of the evidence and issues that were reviewed by the court are the same as those being reviewed in similar class-action lawsuits and the criminal trials of former TEPCO executives, whose pretrial conference procedures are to be held March 29.
The Maebashi ruling “made clear the government’s negligence in postponing checks on whether new quake-resilience standards were being met,” says attorney Yuichi Kaido, who will represent the victims in the upcoming criminal trial. “That matches our claims. The ruling was groundbreaking, and it will create a tide that will influence other court cases.”
Because there are many other similar cases being fought in courts nationwide, it is highly likely that the dispute will continue in an appeal trial in the Tokyo High Court. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference on March 17, “We will look closely at the content of the ruling, and deliberate a response from there,” hinting that the government will look to appeal.
Ruling on Fukushima nuclear crisis a grave admonition of gov’t
In a class action suit filed by residents of Fukushima Prefecture who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere due to the ongoing Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, the Maebashi District Court ordered both the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and the central government to pay 62 residents a total of 38.55 million yen. It marked the first time that the judiciary recognized the state’s responsibility for negligence in the nuclear disaster.
The court ruling should be seen as admonition from the judiciary that the state has a grave responsibility over its nuclear power policy.
The main focus of the case was on whether TEPCO had been able to predict the size of the tsunami that struck the plant on March 11, 2011, and whether the state should have exercised its regulatory authority to make TEPCO implement necessary safety measures.
The plaintiffs focused on a long-term assessment on earthquakes, which the government released in 2002, as evidence to show that TEPCO had been able to predict a tsunami like the one that hit the Fukushima plant. The report stated that there was about a 20 percent chance that an earthquake of around magnitude 8 would occur off the coast between the northern Sanriku region and the Boso Peninsula within the next 30 years.
Based on this report, TEPCO predicted in 2008 that tsunami with a maximum height of 15.7 meters could hit the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The actual tsunami that hit the nuclear power station on March 11, 2011, however, was 15.5 meters tall. The plaintiffs argued that if TEPCO had taken the appropriate anti-tsunami measures based on the long-term assessment and other specific forecasts, the nuclear crisis could have been avoided.
The Maebashi District Court ruled almost entirely in favor of the plaintiffs, saying that TEPCO neglected to take measures despite having been able to predict that such a large tsunami could hit the nuclear plant, putting cost-cutting ahead of safety.
The court also handed down a similar decision regarding the culpability of the central government. Nuclear disasters cause irreparable damage over a large area. The court ruled that the fact that the central government did not exercise its regulatory authority even though TEPCO’s anti-tsunami measures were insufficient was extremely unreasonable when considering the import of the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law and other rules. It is notable, also, that the court ruled that the state’s responsibility was on par with that of TEPCO’s, and ordered the state to pay the plaintiffs the same amount in damages as the utility.
At the same time, however, the ruling was parsimonious in the compensation amount that it ordered be paid to the individual plaintiffs. Because the court deducted compensation money that TEPCO has already paid, the amount it approved was far below what the plaintiffs had demanded.
The plaintiffs had demanded 11 million yen per person — including for those who had evacuated voluntarily — citing loss of their hometowns and jobs, and grave emotional distress. For many of the plaintiffs, therefore, the ruling has likely come as a disappointment.
Around 30 similar lawsuits have been filed nationwide, by around 12,000 plaintiffs who have evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture. Rulings have not yet been handed down in any of those cases.
Why wasn’t the disaster prevented? Who is responsible? Much of the public is still seeking answers to these questions.
However, the nuclear disaster investigative committees of both the government and the Diet have disbanded, bringing their respective probes into causes of the crisis to a halt. The lessons from the ongoing disaster have yet to be learned in their entirety. It is because a single nuclear incident has grave and far-reaching consequences that an examination of its cause is so important.
Japanese government held liable for first time for negligence in Fukushima
Court rules government should have used regulatory powers to force nuclear plant’s operator to take preventive measures
A court in Japan has ruled that negligence by the state contributed to the triple meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011 and awarded significant damages to evacuees.
Although courts have awarded damages arising from the disaster in other cases, Friday’s ruling is the first time the government has been held liable.
The Maebashi district court near Tokyo awarded ¥38.55m (£270,000) to 137 people who were forced to evacuate their homes in the days after three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors suffered a catastrophic meltdown, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Despite official claims that the size and destructive power of the quake and tsunami were impossible to foresee, the court said the nuclear meltdown could have been prevented.
The ruling said the government should have used its regulatory powers to force the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), who were also held liable, to take adequate preventive measures.
The plaintiffs – comprising forced and “voluntary” evacuees – claimed the government and Tepco could have predicted a tsunami more than 10 metres in height would one day hit the plant.
They based their claim on a 2002 report in which government experts estimated there was a one in five chance of a magnitude-8 earthquake occurring and triggering a powerful tsunami within the next 30 years.
At the time of the disaster, Japan’s nuclear regulator was severely criticised for its collusive ties with the nuclear industry, resulting in the formation of a new watchdog that has imposed stricter criteria for the restart of nuclear reactors that were shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
Tepco, which faces a ¥21.5tn bill for decommissioning the plant and compensating evacuees, said it would respond after studying the ruling.
The 137 plaintiffs, who are now living in several regions outside of Fukushima, were seeking a total of ¥1.5bn as compensation for emotional distress.
They said the meltdown and resulting evacuation had ruined their livelihoods and caused disruption to their families’ lives, adding that state compensation they had already received was insufficient.
Friday’s ruling is the first of 30 lawsuits to be brought by Fukushima evacuees. Six years after the disaster, tens of thousands of people are still living in nuclear limbo, and many say they will never be able to return home. A small number have moved back to communities where the government has lifted evacuation orders.
The ruling echoed the conclusion reached by an independent parliamentary investigation, which described the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown as a “man-made” disaster caused by poor regulation and collusion between the government, Tepco and the industry’s then watchdog, the nuclear and industrial safety agency.
The report, published in 2012, accused Tepco and the agency of failing to take adequate safety measures, despite evidence that the north-east coast of Japan was susceptible to powerful earthquakes and tsunamis.
“The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco, and the lack of governance by said parties,” the report said.
“They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly ‘man-made’.”
Japan Court Rules Government to Blame for Fukushima
A court in Japan Friday ruled that Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) and the government are liable for negligence in a case involving compensation for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the first time the judiciary has ruled the state has liability, Japanese media reported.
The district court in Maebashi, north of Tokyo, ruled in favor of 137 evacuees seeking damages for the emotional distress of fleeing their homes as radiation spread from the meltdowns at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi plant after an earthquake and tsunami six years ago, The Mainichi newspaper and other media reported.
While courts have ruled in favor of plaintiffs and awarded damages arising from the disaster, it was the first time a court has recognized that the government was liable, the Mainichi said.
TEPCO has long been criticized for ignoring the threat posed by natural disasters to the Fukushima plant and both the company and government were lambasted for their handling of the crisis.
TEPCO said in a statement it would review the contents of the ruling before making a response.
In December, the government nearly doubled its projections for costs related to the disaster to 21.5 trillion yen ($187.7 billion), increasing pressure on TEPCO to step up reform and improve its performance.
In the world’s worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986, three reactors at TEPCO’s Fukushima plant suffered meltdowns after a magnitude 9 earthquake in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that devastated a swathe of Japan’s northeastern coastline and killed more than 15,000 people.
People pray for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
Japan govt & Tokyo power firm liable for ‘preventable’ Fukushima meltdown – court
Negligence by the government and Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) contributed to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, a court in Japan has ruled, saying the catastrophe could have been avoided, and marking the first time the state has been held liable.
The district court in Maebashi, north of Tokyo, said the government and plant operator were to blame for failing to prepare anti-tsunami measures.
The judge awarded a total of 38.55 million yen (US$340,000) in damages to some 62 plaintiffs who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture after the disaster began to loom large at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported.
A group of 137 plaintiffs had argued the authorities and TEPCO failed to prevent the triple meltdown at the plant, and demanded 11 million yen ($97,108) each in compensation, the newspaper said, adding that the court accepted most of the arguments about the dramatic lack of anti-tsunami measures.
The plaintiffs highlighted the fact that in May 2008, three years before the disaster, plant operator TEPCO received an estimate of a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters that could hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Asahi Shimbun reported. That apocalyptic forecast came true, with a wave around that height hitting the nuclear power plant in 2011, triggering the reactor meltdowns. A huge tsunami knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, spewing radiation and forcing 160,000 people to flee their homes.
If the utility had installed emergency diesel electric generators on higher ground, the measure could have prevented the nuclear disaster, the court ruled on Friday.
Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said that “TEPCO was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators,” the Japan Times reported.
Meanwhile, in its long-term estimate, unveiled in 2002, the government said that the probability of an earthquake striking in the Japan Trench off the coast of northeastern Japan, including the sea area off the Fukushima No. 1 plant, was “about 20 percent within 30 years,” the Asahi Shimbun paper said.
The lawyers for the plaintiffs welcomed the Friday court ruling, saying “It was extremely significant that (a court) has acknowledged the responsibility of the state,” Kyodo news agency reported.
Around 30 similar suits have been filed in at least 20 district courts across Japan, lawyers said.
However, Takehiro Matsuta, one of the plaintiffs who evacuated from the city of Koriyama in central Fukushima Prefecture, called the damages “disappointing.” His child, who was three years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, received no compensation whatsoever.
“My wife and I are struggling every day, but it’s my child who suffers the most,” the 38-year-old father said, as cited by the Japan Times.
“The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of earthquake victims nationwide,” he said.
Both the government and TEPCO argued that the long-term estimate and the May 2008 tsunami study were not credible enough, continuing to insist that the massive tsunami was unexpected.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, told a press conference on Friday that the officials “will consider how to respond after carefully examining the ruling.”
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a blackout and subsequent failure of its cooling systems in March 2011, when it was hit by an earthquake and a killer tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, spewing radiation and forcing 160,000 people to flee their homes. Three of the plant’s six reactors were hit by meltdowns, making the Fukushima nuclear disaster the worst since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986.
Supporters of plaintiffs seeking compensation for Fukushima evacuees unfurl banners in front of the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture announcing the court’s decision Friday.
In first, government and Tepco found liable for Fukushima disaster
Maebashi, Gunma Pref. – A court in Japan has ruled for the first time that the government and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were responsible for failing to take preventive measures against the March 11, 2011, quake-triggered tsunami that killed scores and forced tens of thousands from their homes.
Friday’s stunning ruling by the Maebashi District Court was the first to recognize negligence by the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. It called the massive tsunami predictable and said the major nuclear disaster could have been avoided.
The district court ordered the two to pay damages totaling ¥38.55 million to 62 of 137 plaintiffs from 45 households located near the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown caused by the tsunami, awarding ¥70,000 to ¥3.5 million in compensation to each plaintiff.
The plaintiffs had demanded the state and Tepco pay compensation of ¥11 million each — a total of about ¥1.5 billion — over the loss of local infrastructure and psychological stress they were subjected to after being forced to relocate to unfamiliar surroundings.
Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said in the ruling that “Tepco was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators.”
It pointed out that the state should have ordered Tepco to take bolstered preventive measures, and criticized the utility for prioritizing costs over safety.
Of the plaintiffs, 76 who lived in evacuation zones were forced to move, while another 61 evacuated voluntarily even though their houses were located outside evacuation zones. The ruling was the first of 30 similar class-action suits filed nationwide involving more than 10,000 plaintiffs.
About 80,000 citizens who had lived in Fukushima reportedly left the prefecture after the March 2011 disaster.
“I believe that the ruling saying both the government and Tepco were equally responsible is an important judgment,” Katsuyoshi Suzuki, the lead lawyer for the defense said at a news conference following the ruling. “But thinking about the psychological distress (the plaintiffs faced) after being forced to evacuate from their homes, I think the amount is not enough.”
Takehiro Matsuta, 38, one of the plaintiffs who evacuated from the city of Koriyama, hailed the ruling, but called the damages “disappointing.”
“The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of earthquake victims nationwide,” he said.
But called the payout “disappointing,” as his child, who was 3 years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, was not granted compensation. “My wife and I are struggling everyday, but it’s my child who suffers the most.”
The group of lawyers for the plaintiffs, which have had suits filed since September 2011, claimed that the Fukushima disaster resulted in serious human rights violations by forcing victims to relocate after the crisis caused widespread environmental damage.
The plaintiffs argued that Tepco could have prevented the damage if it had implemented measures, including the building of breakwaters, based on its 2008 tsunami trial calculation that showed waves of over 10 meters could hit the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Those calculations took into account the 2002 estimate by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, which concluded that there was a 20 percent chance of a magnitude-8 earthquake rocking areas off Fukushima within 30 years.
However, the government and Tepco have argued that the massive tsunami was unexpected, claiming that there were different opinions among scholars over the long-term evaluation. Both attacked the credibility of the study, calling it unscientific.
The government also objected to the ruling, saying that because it had no authority to force Tepco to take such preventive measures as argued by the plaintiffs, it bore no responsibility.
According to the defense, a number of other class suits are inching closer to rulings, with one in the city of Chiba scheduled for Sept. 22 and another in the city of Fukushima involving 4,000 plaintiffs expected by the year’s end.
An abandoned home in Futaba, Japan, one of the towns around the Fukushima plant. Nearly 160,000 people evacuated the area after the disaster in 2011.
TOKYO — The Japanese government and the electric utility that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were negligent in not preventing the meltdowns in 2011 that forced thousands of people to flee the area, a district court in eastern Japan ruled on Friday.
It was the first time that a court determined that both the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, and the government bore responsibility for the nuclear disaster that followed a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The decision could influence dozens of similar lawsuits filed by close to 12,000 evacuated residents now living across the country.
According to Japanese news reports of the ruling by the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture, the court said that the disaster, considered the worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986, was “predictable” and that it was “possible to prevent the accident.”
The court ordered the government and Tepco to pay damages totaling 38 million yen, or about $335,000, to 62 residents who were evacuated from the towns around the Fukushima plant and who relocated to Gunma. Each was awarded a different amount, but the total worked out to an average of $5,400 a person.
In their lawsuit, 137 former residents had sued for damages of ¥11 million, about $97,000, per person, and the court awarded damages to half the plaintiffs. About half of them had left on government evacuation orders while the other half had decided to leave on their own. Each case was evaluated individually.
The court weighed whether Tepco and the government had paid adequate damages to the nearly 160,000 people who evacuated from the towns around Fukushima. About 90,000 people have returned or settled in other places, and Tepco has already paid about ¥7 trillion in compensation.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that the central government and Tepco should have foreseen the possibility of a tsunami of the magnitude that hit the plant and that they should have done more to protect the plant.
The March 11, 2011, meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, which is on the eastern coast of Japan, occurred when 32-foot waves breached the power station’s protective sea walls, flooding buildings and destroying diesel-powered electricity generators that were designed to keep critical systems functioning in a blackout.
Tepco did not deny responsibility in a statement on Friday.
“We again apologize from the bottom of our hearts for giving great troubles and concerns to the residents of Fukushima and other people in society by causing the accident of the nuclear power station of our company,” Isao Ito, a spokesman, said. “Regarding today’s judgment given at the Maebashi local court today, we would like to consider how to respond to this after examining the content of the judgment.”
Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet minister to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told reporters that the government had yet to see the details of the ruling.
“The concerned ministries and agencies are going to thoroughly examine the content of the judgment and discuss how we will respond to it,” Mr. Suga said.
Analysts said the case appeared to set an important precedent.
“Tepco’s argument all along has basically been that everything it did before the accident had been approved by the government, while the government has claimed that Tepco failed to follow guidance,” said Azby Brown, director of the Future Design Institute at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and a volunteer researcher with Safecast, an independent radiation-monitoring group.
“This suit seems to have concluded that the evidence shows they share culpability,” he said. “I expect the government and Tepco to appeal, and for this to drag on for years.”
Izutaro Managi, a lawyer representing another class-action lawsuit against the government and Tepco, said that the government had failed in its oversight responsibilities. He said the damages were “not big enough.”
Representatives of groups that have sued the government and Tepco for negligence said they were more interested in the principle of the case than the amount of compensation awarded.
“The money is not a problem,” said Koichi Muramatsu, 66, a former resident of Soma City in Fukushima and the secretary of a victims group representing 4,200 plaintiffs in the suit being handled by Mr. Managi. “Even if it’s ¥1,000 or ¥2,000, it’s fine. We just want the government to admit their responsibility. Our ultimate goal is to make the government admit their responsibility and remind them not to repeat the same accident.”
In a statement, Katsumasa Suzuki, the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling significant because it “legally reconfirmed that government regulation was inappropriate.”
But he said he was disappointed by the low total of the damages.
“It is largely questionable whether the mental distress the plaintiffs faced was adequately evaluated,” he said.
Court: State and TEPCO must compensate
A court in Japan has ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay damages to evacuees of the 2011 nuclear accident.
The ruling is the first among similar suits filed across the country to order compensation.
137 evacuees mainly living in Gunma Prefecture northwest of Tokyo, filed the suit. They were seeking damages for emotional distress suffered after losing their livelihoods.
Court decision expected in Fukushima damages suit
A district court in eastern Japan will announce its decision Friday on a damages lawsuit filed by evacuees of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company.
137 people, mainly evacuees living in Gunma Prefecture, filed the suit with the Maebashi District Court, seeking compensation worth about 13 million dollars. The ruling will be the first damages suit of its kind in Japan.
The plaintiffs include those who fled evacuation zones and other parts of Fukushima Prefecture after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They say they suffered emotional distress after losing their livelihoods. They are seeking about 97,000 dollars each.
The points of contention include whether the Japanese government and plant operator TEPCO could have foreseen the major tsunami and prevented the damage, as well as whether the compensation TEPCO is paying evacuees is appropriate.
The plaintiffs claim the tsunami was predictable, citing a 2002 prediction of a massive earthquake by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion.
But the government and TEPCO say many researchers voiced differing views, and an installation of tide embankments based on the prediction would not have prevented the damage.
The plaintiffs say the compensation they received is insufficient. The government and TEPCO say it is appropriate.
More than 12,000 people have filed similar suits in 18 prefectures.
A court ruling concerning nuclear reactor operations raises serious doubts about whether the court rightly recognized the gravity of the damage and the harsh realities caused by the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court on April 6 rejected an appeal by Kyushu residents seeking an injunction to shut down the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors of the Sendai nuclear plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture. They are the only two reactors currently operating in Japan.
The ruling in essence said the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA) new safety standards, established after the disaster at the Fukushima plant, reflect the lessons learned from the triple meltdown and cannot be described as unreasonable. It also dismissed the plaintiffs’ argument that the design of the Sendai plant underestimates the safety risks posed by possible major earthquakes.
This ruling stands in sharp contrast with the Otsu District Court’s decision in March that raised doubts about the NRA’s safety standards and ordered the suspension of operations of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.
What happened in Fukushima has created strong anxiety among Japanese about the safety of nuclear power generation. From this point of view, it is obvious which of the two rulings really echoed the public sentiment about nuclear safety.
Symptomatic of the two courts’ different stances toward public concerns are their views about evacuation plans.
The new nuclear safety standards do not address issues related to evacuation plans.
The Otsu District Court raised questions about this fact and contended that the government is obliged to develop new regulatory standards based on a broader perspective that also address evacuation plans.
The Miyazaki branch acknowledged there are legitimate concerns about the existing plan for emergency evacuations.
The plaintiffs argued that the plan would be unable to deal with a situation that requires an immediate and massive evacuation. They also said the number of buses available to transport local residents during nuclear crises would be insufficient.
But the court nevertheless dismissed the plaintiffs’claim that operating the Sendai reactors violates their personal rights. The court pointed out that at least an emergency evacuation plan was in place.
Following the accident in Fukushima, many residents could not smoothly flee for their safety, leading to serious confusion.
The high court’s decision did not give due consideration to this fact.
Volcanoes, including the highly active Sakurajima, are located around the Sendai nuclear plant.
The NRA has established guidelines concerning the risks to nuclear plants posed by volcanic eruptions.
The high court judged the guidelines, based on the assumption that the timing and scale of eruptions can be accurately predicted, to be “irrational.”
Yet the court said the probability of an eruption triggering a catastrophic nuclear accident was so low that the risk can be ignored unless solid grounds for thinking otherwise are shown.
The court acknowledged the NRA’s flawed approach to dealing with the safety risk posed by volcanic eruptions. But it said the widely accepted view in society is that the risk can be ignored because of the low probability of such eruptions actually occurring.
Can this be described as an opinion based on serious reflection on the fact that unforeseen circumstances occurred at the Fukushima plant?
The exact causes of the nuclear disaster are not yet clear, and around 100,000 people are still living as evacuees.
That explains why various opinion polls show a majority of respondents expressing negative views about plans to restart reactors.
The court ruling that endorses the NRA’s new safety standards does not translate into public support of the government’s policy to bring idled reactors back on stream.
The sharply different court rulings on reactor operations should be regarded as a sign that the knotty question of how to secure safety at nuclear plants remains unsolved.
Nuclear power’s popularity has waned significantly in post-Fukushima Japan. Japanese citizens near nuclear power plants have used the court system to challenge efforts by the national government and nuclear industry to resume nuclear power plant operations.
Recently a judge ruled that nuclear power constituted an acceptable level of risk:
Court rejects appeal to halt operations of Sendai reactors April 6, 2016 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201604060045.html
MIYAZAKI–A high court here rejected an appeal by Kyushu residents seeking to shut down the only two nuclear reactors operating in Japan, ruling that it is impossible to secure absolute safety with nuclear energy. Presiding Judge Tomoichiro Nishikawa of the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court said April 6 that current science and technology standards cannot reach a level of safety in which no radioactive materials are emitted regardless of the severity of the accident at a nuclear plant.
“A judgment has to be made based on the standard of what level of danger a society would be willing to live with,” Nishikawa said.
The judge’s decision is not necessarily representative of majority public opinion in Japan given polling results conducted by Japan’s mainstream news media.
Japan’s political and legal bureaucracies may give judges the authority to make this type of decision, counter to public will.
This may be legally sound, but still morally inconsistent with democratic ideals, including human rights.
Who decides when the potential consequences of a decision are catastrophic?
This question about who decides is illustrated in another recent news story, wherein we were causally informed that workers at the Daiichi plant’s new exposure level is 1,000 millisieverts, or a full sievert:
Fukushima No. 1 workers who got maximum radiation dose at start of crisis can now return to plant Kyodo Apr 1, 2016 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/01/national/150-fukushima-no-1-workers-got-maximum-radiation-dose-start-crisis-can-now-return-plant/#.VwFGsnqYJmz
But Tepco said it will not push them to return and said those who wish to go back will be managed under a new exposure regime designed to limit a worker’s lifetime radiation dosage to 1,000 millisieverts in line with recommendations made by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. In 2015, the exposure level had been raised to 250 millisieverts a year. Now its 1000? Who made that decision?
Hiromi Kumia, “Nuclear Watchdog Proposes Raising Maximum Radiation Dose to 250 Millisieverts,” The Asahi Shimbun, July 31, 2015, accessed August 1, 2015, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201507310057.
“Gov’t to Raise Maximum Annual Radiation Exposure Ahead of Restart of Nuclear Reactors,” The Mainichi, June 30, 2015, accessed July1, 2015,
Source! Majia’s Blog
TOKYO — A court in Japan ordered one of only two nuclear power plants operating in the country to shut down on Wednesday, citing insufficient safety measures put in place after meltdowns at a facility in Fukushima five years ago.
The plant, Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, had been back online for only two months after an extended freeze on atomic power in Japan in the aftermath of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Japan’s government and its power companies have struggled to get the nuclear industry back on its feet. Despite new safety standards introduced in 2013, much of the public remains wary. Only a handful of the more than 40 operable reactors in the country have met the new rules, and lawsuits have made it difficult to restart them.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government sees a revival of nuclear power as critical to supporting economic growth and slowing an exodus of Japanese manufacturing to lower-cost countries. Electricity prices have risen by 20 percent or more since the Fukushima disaster because of increased imports of fossil fuels, though the recent drop in oil prices has taken some of the pressure off.
The court ruling on Wednesday added a new twist to the legal battles over nuclear power.
Judges have enjoined idled plants from being put back into service, but the judgment against Takahama was the first in which a facility that had successfully been restarted was ordered to shut down. Takahama’s owner, Kansai Electric Power Company, brought one reactor at the facility back online in January and another last month.
The court, which is in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, said neither restart should have happened. It was responding to a request for an injunction filed by residents, who said the plant’s owner had underestimated the size of earthquakes that could strike the plant and had not made adequately detailed plans to evacuate people living nearby in case of an accident.
Government safety regulators say Takahama meets Japan’s new safety guidelines, which address such issues. But the court ruled for the plaintiffs, saying there were “points of concern in accident prevention, emergency response plans and the formulation of earthquake models.”
Kansai Electric said it would appeal. It has won previous appeals against injunctions issued against its plants, including Takahama. The company overcame a separate lawsuit to bring the plant online in January.
Takahama is in Fukui Prefecture, a stronghold for the atomic power industry that is home to 13 commercial reactors and that has earned the nickname Genpatsu Ginza, or Nuclear Alley. But the latest lawsuit was filed by residents of the neighboring Shiga Prefecture, who said they would be affected by radiation from a serious accident at Takahama.
Radiation releases from the plant in Fukushima affected a wide swath of northeastern Japan. More than 100,000 residents were evacuated, and many are still unable or unwilling to return.
KYOTO–The Kyoto District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay 30.46 million yen ($267,000) to a couple for mental illnesses the husband suffered following their “voluntary evacuation” from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The district court’s unprecedented ruling on Feb. 18 said the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant contributed to the insomnia and depression the husband developed after his family fled Fukushima Prefecture in 2011.
Although the plaintiffs did not live in a government-designated evacuation zone around the plant, the court said evacuating voluntarily is “appropriate when the hazard from the accident and conflicting information remained.”
The ruling was the first to award damages to voluntary evacuees, according to a private group of lawyers involved in lawsuits against TEPCO and the central government over the nuclear disaster.
The man, who is in his 40s, his wife and three children were seeking a total of 180 million yen against TEPCO.
According to the ruling, the husband and wife had managed a company that operated restaurants in Fukushima Prefecture. The family fled their home a few days after the nuclear accident started in March 2011 and moved to Kyoto in may that year.
The court acknowledged the man suffered severe mental stress because he had to leave his hometown and quit his position as representative of the company.
TEPCO had paid a total of 2.92 million yen to the family based on the central government’s compensation standards for residents who evacuated on their own.
The utility argued that its payments were appropriate because they were based on guidelines set by a central government panel addressing disputes over compensation for nuclear accidents. The guidelines dictate uniform and fixed payments for residents who left areas outside designated evacuation zones.
However, the district court said these guidelines “simply show a list of damages that can be broken down and the scope of damages.”
The court concluded that compensation amounts should instead reflect the personal circumstances of evacuees in nuclear accident-related cases.
It ordered TEPCO to compensate the couple for the period through August 2012, when radiation levels dropped to a certain level and information on the nuclear accident became more stable and accurate.
Specifically, the court said the husband and wife are entitled to part of the monthly remuneration of 400,000 yen to 760,000 yen they had received each for having to suspend their business following the nuclear accident.
But the court dismissed the damage claims of the couple’s three children, saying their compensation was already covered by TEPCO’s payments.
About 10,000 evacuees are involved in 21 damages suits filed in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo, Osaka and elsewhere.
An estimated 18,000 people from Fukushima Prefecture are still living in voluntary evacuation, according to the prefectural government.
Tepco to compensate couple for damages from voluntary Fukushima evacuation
The Kyoto District Court has ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to pay about ¥30 million to a couple for economic and health damage caused by their decision to voluntarily flee the radiation in Fukushima Prefecture after the disaster.
The husband lost his job and developed a mental illness during the ordeal.
This is believed to be the first time a court has found Tokyo Electric Power Co. liable for damages stemming from a voluntary evacuation after the plant’s triple core meltdown, which was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.
The ruling is expected to affect similar lawsuits filed by voluntary evacuees across the country.
According to the Fukushima Prefectural Government, as of the end of October, some 18,000 people in 7,000 households who lived outside the designated evacuation zone remain evacuated outside Fukushima.
The sum awarded is also far more than the ¥11 million proposed by a government-established center that mediates out-of-court settlements for nuclear accident compensation cases. The settlement program is called ADR.
The center is for people who are not covered by Tepco’s direct compensation scheme. The ADR program is also aimed at reaching conclusions more quickly than through Tepco. Some 18,000 applications for settlement have been made, out of which 13,000 cases have been resolved. But the amount awarded through ADR tends to be small, experts say.
Hideaki Omori, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the ruling “set an example that there is no need to give up when evacuees do not feel satisfied with the sum” presented by the dispute resolution center.
The couple — who had moved twice before settling down in the city of Kyoto in May 2011 — had sought ¥180 million in damages.
The plaintiffs, who are in their 40s, expressed relief after the ruling.
“We are relieved that we will be financially alright for a while, but we still can’t imagine our future life,” they said in a statement released through their lawyers.
According to the written complaint, the husband became unable to work because he developed pleurisy (a respiratory disease) and depression after the evacuation. Their children also experienced emotional distress from being harshly treated by classmates because they came from Fukushima Prefecture.
The court also showed for the first time that such compensation should be extended for evacuation through the end of August 2012, rejecting claims for damages after that.
The court cited the gradual fall in radiation levels in the city of Koriyama, where the couple originally lived before the disaster, concluding that from September 2012 on, the levels were not serious enough to damage health.
After three reactors experienced meltdowns during the disaster, residents within 20 km of the nuclear plant and some areas beyond were ordered to evacuate. Many others also fled at their own discretion and remain in temporary housing.
Court orders TEPCO to compensate evacuees
A court has ordered Tokyo Electric Power Company to compensate a family who chose to flee after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The Kyoto District Court issued the ruling on Thursday and told the utility to pay about 30 million yen, or over 260 thousand dollars.
The plaintiffs evacuated from Fukushima to Kyoto Prefecture and elsewhere on a voluntary basis.
They were seeking compensation of nearly 1.6 million dollars. They say they could not work since the accident due to insomnia, depression and other stress-related health problems.
The court said it’s reasonable that the plaintiffs voluntarily evacuated, as information on the danger of the unprecedented disaster had not been revealed.
The court also said the plaintiffs had to evacuate from familiar surroundings and that this caused considerable stress and illnesses.
TEPCO ordered to pay damages for voluntary evacuation from Fukushima
KYOTO — A court has ruled that the operator of the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex is liable for damages stemming from voluntary evacuation by residents in Fukushima Prefecture, believed to be the first ruling of its kind.
The Kyoto District Court on Thursday ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) to pay about 30 million yen in damages to a couple in which the husband lost his job and developed mental illness after the family voluntarily fled in the wake of nuclear disaster triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The sum the court awarded to the couple in their 40s is also much bigger than the 11 million yen proposed by a government-established center to mediate out-of-court settlements for nuclear accident compensation.
The plaintiffs said the ruling “set an example that there is no need to give up when evacuees do not feel satisfied with the sum” presented by the dispute resolution center. The couple, who have evacuated to the city of Kyoto, sought about 180 million yen from TEPCO in the lawsuit filed in 2013.
According to the ruling, the husband was managing a company before he and his family fled Fukushima in the wake of the nuclear disaster. The husband then developed sleeping problems and suffered from depression before becoming unable to work around May 2011.
Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki determined that the nuclear accident “was one of the main reasons” that the husband suffered mental and other problems. He also found that the financial loss the couple faced was the consequence of the accident.
Of the amount TEPCO was ordered to pay, about 21 million yen in damages is associated with lost employment income and expenses due to evacuation, the ruling said.
Another 1.7 million yen is compensation for being “forced to move to a land with no ties with Fukushima Prefecture which they were familiar with,” the court said, adding that they “lost a stable life.”
During the triple reactor core meltdown disaster, residents living within 20 kilometers of the TEPCO nuclear plant and some areas beyond were ordered to evacuate. Many others also fled from their homes at their own discretion.
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