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VOX POPULI: Power company execs should think of liability if accident occurs

Plaintiffs and their lawyers hold a news conference on July 13 after the Tokyo District Court ordered four former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay 13 trillion yen in compensation.

July 19, 2022

I see something akin to chaos in the notably varied conclusions different courts reached in their verdicts of the 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which Tokyo Electric Power Co. operates. 

Some courts ruled the government’s long-range assessment, which pointed out at an early date the possibility of a major tsunami, was scientifically reliable, while others raised their doubts.

Some verdicts severely questioned the responsibility of plant operators for failing to implement tsunami countermeasures, while other courts ruled that the government could not be held responsible as a regulatory authority because the disaster would have occurred no matter what countermeasures were in place.

Judges are human. As long as their decisions are made independently, I believe it is only natural that their opinions vary.

But as in a kaleidoscope where ordered patterns are created out of disorder, it may be possible to see a broad pattern emerge from the chaotic jumble of diverse court decisions.

When an accident occurs at a nuclear power plant, the government’s responsibility is not questioned too severely, but the utility and its executives are made to pay a huge price.

The Tokyo District Court on July 13 ordered former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and three other former top executives to pay 13 trillion yen (about $94 billion) in damages.

If this ruling holds, the defendants will probably have to sell off their entire personal assets and, if necessary, eventually file for personal bankruptcy. That is the sheer size of the compensation they will have to pay.

The industrial-bureaucratic-academic complex dealing with nuclear power is dubbed Genshiryoku Mura (Nuclear power village) in Japanese. The “villagers” share common interests, but they do not share a common destiny.

I wonder how TEPCO’s current executives feel about the reality that has emerged from the court rulings to date.

And the government, whose destiny remains independent of the village’s, has started calling louder for nuclear power plants to be brought back online.

I respectfully suggest to utility executives that they think very carefully, as many times as needed, about how much 13 trillion yen actually is.


July 22, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Prefecture Bar Association makes an emergency statement on the Supreme Court ruling on the nuclear power plant lawsuit

July 19, 2022
In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that the government is not responsible for the nuclear power plant accident, the Fukushima Prefecture Bar Association called for a decision based on the actual situation in the other lawsuits.

On March 17, the Supreme Court ruled against the government’s responsibility in four class action lawsuits over the nuclear accident, stating that even if the government had obliged TEPCO to take measures to prevent a nuclear accident, there is a high possibility that an accident would have occurred.

In response, the Fukushima Prefecture Bar Association held a press conference in Fukushima City on March 19 and issued an emergency statement.

Daisuke Yorikane, attorney-at-law of the Fukushima Prefecture Bar Association, said, “In terms of responding to the wishes of the litigants, we are disappointed because we wanted the Supreme Court to give a proper opinion on the state of nuclear safety regulations in the country.

The statement pointed out that the Supreme Court’s decision was based solely on the theory of causality and could not be said to be responsive to the wishes of the plaintiffs.

The statement called for the Supreme Court to make a decision that recognizes the responsibility of the government based on the actual conditions of the other cases that are still ongoing.

Attorney Yorikane said, “I hope that (the government) will actively fulfill its responsibilities regarding the exercise of its authority based on scientific findings.

The Fukushima Prefecture Bar Association also referred to the government’s interim guidelines, which serve as the standard for compensation for damages, and called for a review of the guidelines according to the actual conditions of the damage in the future.

July 22, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

VOX POPULI: Nuclear power in Japan may be a mistake we are doomed to repeat

A huge tsunami is seen approaching the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

July 7, 2022

The Supreme Court was extremely lenient with the government in its June 17 verdict concerning the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe of 2011.

Multiple high courts had already ruled that the government was liable for damages for failing to order Tokyo Electric Power Co. to take sufficient preventive measures against a potentially disastrous tsunami.

The top court, however, overturned all these rulings.

Explaining the reason, the presiding justice noted to the effect that the tsunami turned out to be “simply too massive.”

The gist of his argument was that since the accident would have occurred anyway even if the government had ordered TEPCO to install a seawall, his court could not hold the government responsible as a nuclear safety regulator.

What an utterly magnanimous ruling for a government that failed to do its part. This is akin to giving someone a pass because they are too inexperienced or immature to be treated seriously.

I could not possibly support this ruling. However, trying to go along with the court’s reasoning just for the sake of argument, the conclusion to be drawn is the government was never capable of regulating a nuclear power plant at all.

Ultimately, any discussion of nuclear power boils down to whether humans are ever capable of being a party to handling it.

Radioactive nuclear waste must be kept isolated for an utterly mind-boggling period of 100,000 years. We have also learned that once a nuclear accident occurs, we cannot even go near the accident site, let alone control it.

For some years after the Fukushima disaster, the idea of ending nuclear power generation was a major issue in national elections.

A decade has elapsed, however, and the issue is hardly “hot” in the July 10 Upper House election. In fact, the recent rise in energy prices has given a boost to advocates for a greater reliance on nuclear energy.

If radioactive nuclear waste could talk, it must be scoffing at our forgetfulness and taunting us: “You will never be able to measure us by your yardstick.”

July 10, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Supreme Court Ruling Rejects National Government Responsibility for Fukushima Evacuees

by Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center · Published July 4, 2022

By Fukutake Kimiko (Head attorney for the Chiba Prefecture nuclear power plant victims lawsuit)

On June 17, 2022, the Supreme Court of Japan put an end to the four lawsuits filed by the evacuees of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Gunma, Chiba, and Ehime prefectures. The sole point of dispute in these lawsuits was whether the Japanese government, which did not exert regulatory authority on the utility company, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), for the implementation of measures against tsunamis, is liable to compensate for damages according to Paragraph 1, Article 1 of the Law Concerning State Liability for Compensation. The top court absolved the government.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred when external power supply to the station was lost due to the earthquake, activating the emergency power supply system, which was then crippled by the tsunami that flooded the station above ground level. The loss of emergency power made reactor core cooling impossible, causing core meltdown and the discharge of huge volumes of radioactive substances. The plaintiffs claimed that, firstly, the loss of emergency power supply and consequent disaster had been foreseeable because it was possible to tell that tsunamis would flood the station above ground level, at which the reactor building and turbine building were situated, since the height and impact of tsunamis were calculated based on the Long-term Assessment released in 2002 by the governmental Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion. The second claim was that the disaster might have been prevented if the main buildings and main equipment rooms had been provided with measures to make them watertight, in addition to seawalls.

On the other hand, the government claimed that, firstly, the Long-term Assessment was not knowledge that could have been accepted as a just set of opinions sufficiently accurate and reliable to be incorporated into nuclear regulation, and that, secondly, even if tsunami countermeasures had been taken in response to the calculations based on the Long-term Assessment, tsunamis were calculated to arrive from the south, prompting a seawall to be built to the south of the station, such that the seawall would have had no effect against the tsunami experienced in this lawsuit, because the size and directions of the actual tsunami waves were completely different.

Supreme Court shies away from delivering a clear judgment about foreseeability

Concerning the tsunami calculations, the Supreme Court stated: “The fault model of the Meiji Sanriku Earthquake was applied to the areas closer to the Japan trench, such as the areas off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. Many numerical calculations performed with the conditions of this fault model varied within the ranges that were deemed reasonable, using the design tsunami height evaluation methods available from tsunami evaluation technology. The highest possible tsunamis on the east face and southeast face of the station were calculated. The calculations included sufficient safety margins to meet the worst-case scenario foreseeable at that time. Thus, the calculations were reasonable.”

The Supreme Court did not examine the Long-term Assessment closely nor take it affirmatively; it stated that the calculations based on the Long-term Assessment were reasonable. However, the court did not clearly put aside the Long-term Assessment. The court statement can be understood to mean that the Assessment was reliable.

However, to determine foreseeability, it is not sufficient to consider only natural phenomena, namely, from what directions and at what heights tsunamis would arrive. What also needs to be considered is whether it was possible to foresee that, when a tsunami arrived above ground level, seawater could enter the buildings and rooms where critical facilities were placed through openings such as doors, pipe penetrations and air intakes, possibly submerging and crippling the emergency power supply. Sato Kazuo, former chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission wrote in Logic of Nuclear Safety [in Japanese]: “Danger indicates the possibility of generating circumstances where human life, health, or assets may be significantly damaged.”

The Supreme Court wrote: “If the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry had exerted regulatory authority, a seawall or similar construction designed to prevent the flooding of the station would have been installed to protect against tsunamis of the scale similar to those calculated in the Long-term Assessment.” It sounds as if the Supreme Court recognized the foreseeability of only natural phenomena.

Supreme Court adopts the seawall as the sole point of contention

The Supreme Court further stated, “Prior to the accident examined in this lawsuit, the basic countermeasure for the protection of nuclear facilities from tsunamis in this country was to build seawalls or the like to prevent seawater from entering the premises of the nuclear facilities in which safety equipment or the like are situated, to prepare against premise flooding due to tsunamis… Such an idea that installing seawalls or the like is not sufficient was not dominant, and in no other respects was the above-mentioned measure taken as insufficient as a tsunami countermeasure to protect nuclear facilities under the knowledge available before the accident examined in this lawsuit. Therefore, it is impossible to reasonably determine that the implementation of other measures was probable or that such other measures should have been taken in addition to the seawalls or the like designed to prevent the flooding of the premises examined in this lawsuit in the case of tsunamis of a scale similar to that of the accident, even if the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry had exerted the above-mentioned regulatory authority before the accident.”

At the same time, however, a flooding accident had already been experienced at the Blayais Nuclear Power Plant in France. In response to the accident, watertight defense efforts were being made for critical equipment rooms in addition to the construction of seawalls. At Tokai Daini Nuclear Power Plant (Ibaraki Prefecture) and Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station (Shizuoka Prefecture), watertight defense efforts were already made for part of the buildings and critical equipment rooms. The safety philosophy of multiple protection, which demands multi-layer safety measures, was widely accepted around the world. A single measure is no longer regarded satisfactory for critical equipment such as the emergency power supply; multi-layer, diverse, and independent safety measures are demanded. The Supreme Court judgment is a sign of acceptance of the poor operation of the regulatory organization in Japan.

Supreme Court excessively emphasizes that the actual tsunami and earthquake were greater than the tsunami calculations

The Supreme Court stated, “The scale of earthquake predicted in the Long-term Assessment was around 8.2 in tsunami magnitude, and the flooding depth around the main buildings was estimated to be about 2.6 meters or less. The calculated tsunamis were higher than the station ground level on the southeast face, while on the east face, the calculated tsunamis did not exceed the ground level; namely, even if a tsunami of the same scale as calculated had arrived at the station examined in this lawsuit, it was not foreseen that seawater might enter the site from the east face.” The court examined in detail the tsunami experienced in this lawsuit, stating, “The epicentral area ranged about 450 kilometers north and south, and about 200 kilometers east and west. The maximum slippage was 50 meters or more. The magnitude of the earthquake experienced in this lawsuit was 9.0, and the tsunami magnitude was 9.1; the earthquake was the largest in Japan’s seismic monitoring history. With the arrival of the tsunami experienced in this lawsuit, volumes of seawater entered the station premises not only from the southeast face but also from the east face. The flooding depth near the main buildings due to the tsunami was a maximum of about 5.5 meters.” This finding is not wrong. However, it is not relevant to discuss the cause of the disaster based only on the scale of the earthquake (whether the tsunami magnitude was 8.2 or 9.1), the direction of tsunami arrival (whether from southeast or from east), or flooding depth (whether about 2.6 meters or less, or a maximum of about 5.5 meters). The real issue is whether tsunamis might arrive above the station ground level, whether seawater might enter the main buildings, whether emergency power supply might be flooded and crippled, and whether the danger of reactor core meltdown might be possible or probable. Because the tsunami calculations obtained based on the Long-term Assessment indicated that such a danger was possible, the danger did exist if the actual tsunami were as great as or greater than the calculations. As the dissenting opinion by Judge Miura points out, “In this lawsuit, the bottom line must not be overlooked while too much attention is paid to the scales and details of the earthquake or tsunami experienced in this lawsuit.”

Supreme Court judges that seawall installation is the only measure, taking account of tsunami calculations only

The Supreme Court wrote: “A seawall or the like designed to protect the station examined in this lawsuit from tsunamis of the same scale as the tsunami calculations would be highly likely to serve mainly to prevent the entry of seawater from the southeast face of the station; even taking into account the possibility that seawalls would be designed to include a given degree of margin, it would not have served to prevent the ingress of a great amount of seawater into the station at the arrival of the tsunami.” The court also stated: “It is highly likely that such a large amount of seawater would have entered the main buildings, flooded and crippled emergency power supply, caused the nuclear reactor facilities to black out, and generated an accident of the same scale of the disaster experienced in this lawsuit.” In conclusion, the Supreme Court denied the causal link between the lack of exertion of regulatory authority and the occurrence of the disaster, stating. “Under the factual conditions presented in this case, a factual relation cannot be found to exist between the lack of exertion of the abovementioned regulatory authority by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry and the occurrence of the accident examined in this lawsuit or similar accident.” The court judged that the government is not liable to compensate for damages according to Paragraph 1, Article 1 of the Law Concerning State Liability for Compensation.

Dissenting opinion by Judge Miura acutely reveals the truth

The Supreme Court Petty Bench consists of five judges, but Otani Naoto, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, does not participate in the examination of individual cases. The four judges who conducted this case were Kanno Hiroyuki (former judge), Miura Mamoru (former prosecutor), Kusano Koichi (former attorney), and Okamura Kazumi (former prosecutor, attorney, and government official).

Besides the fact-finding section, the majority opinion (by judges Kanno, Kusano and Okamura) consists of only six pages, denying the liability of the government. On the other hand, the dissenting opinion (by judge Miura) is 29 pages long, and clearly states that the government is liable: “The government and the utility company, TEPCO, are held liable for damages to the plaintiffs, and it is reasonable to understand that the two are under non-authentic joint obligations (meaning that both parties are liable, but that releasing one party from liability does not automatically release the other party from the same liability).” The dissenting opinion is summarized below:

  1. In the Technical Standards based on the Electricity Business Act, “the cases where nuclear reactor facilities and the like may be damaged by tsunamis,” are cases where, in consideration of the severest foreseeable tsunami conditions, the safety functions of nuclear reactor facilities and the like may be crippled by tsunamis, which should be assessed appropriately by means of numerical calculations and other relevant means, based on the latest scientific and expert knowledge, and in consideration of the uncertainty of various factors from a conservative (safer) point of view, to encompass tsunamis that may occur, however rarely, during the service period of the facilities.
  2. The Long-term Assessment was conducted to evaluate the occurrence of future earthquake activity in the area ranging from the offshore area of the Sanriku Coast (extending from Aomori to Miyagi Prefectures in northern Japan) to the offshore area of the Boso Peninsula (in Chiba Prefecture in the south), as part of a comprehensive evaluation of earthquakes, to promote the improvement of earthquake disaster prevention measures. The basic reliability of the Assessment can be secured in that the Assessment was conducted by appropriate methods using previously established scientific and expert knowledge. The Assessment is reasonable for use as the basis of the determination of technological standards.
  3. At that time, in Japan and in other countries, watertight defense measures were known to be implemented in nuclear reactor facilities. Technological knowledge for the prevention of flooding for doors, openings, penetrations and the like is available. It can be considered that, if watertight defense measures or other relevant measures were taken, it might have effectively protected the emergency power supply examined in this lawsuit against the tsunami.

Let’s overturn the Supreme Court majority opinion

The majority opinion of the Supreme Court bailed out the delinquent national government, ignoring the fact that regulatory administration can be effective only when the government exerts regulatory authority at the right time and in the right situations. We might say that the judicial system has managed to come down to a very low level here.

The majority opinion of the Supreme Court includes incorrect factual findings, judgment failures and contradictions. The second lawsuit of the Chiba plaintiff group is pending at the Tokyo Hight Court. We intend to make the best efforts possible to present further assertions and proofs needed to turn the dissenting opinion of the Supreme Court decision into a majority opinion. We thank you for your continued support.

July 10, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Payouts for nuclear disaster in urgent need of revamp

The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant

May 12, 2022

The government’s committee overseeing compensation for victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has begun considering whether existing guidelines for payouts should be revised upward.

Established in the aftermath of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the guidelines have long been denounced as woefully inadequate in light of the impact of the unprecedented accident. The committee’s decision comes far too late. Many victims are now advanced in years and there is no time to waste in revamping the guidelines.

The criteria for amounts to be paid out were drawn up in August 2011 by the government’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation as “interim guidelines.” To expedite payments, the panel set general rules concerning eligibility based on categories of damages.

The guidelines, last reviewed in December 2013, are supposed to indicate minimum amounts of compensation for different types of damages. The utility is supposed to determine the actual sums to be paid after considering the special circumstances of individual victims.

Thirty or so group lawsuits have been filed by victims asserting that estimates of damages based on this method were insufficient. The plaintiffs are also seeking to hold the government liable for damages.

More than 10,000 people are involved in these legal actions. A series of rulings by district and high courts since 2017 granted higher damages to the plaintiffs than the estimates based on the guidelines. Seven of the rulings against plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. were finalized by the Supreme Court this spring.

The cases deal with different issues. Some supported the argument that all plaintiffs in a certain area should be compensated for mental stress due to their “loss of homes,” meaning they were deprived of their livelihoods and community life. These rulings represent judicial recognition of certain kinds of damages common to many local residents that are not covered by the guidelines. The guidelines should at least be changed to address these issues. Fukushima Prefecture and other local administrative authorities have urged the central government to review the criteria based on the court decisions.

In a belated move, the committee decided to analyze the rulings and identify types of damages not covered by the guidelines. This is a necessary process, but more needs to be done. The panel should confront the diverse and complicated realities resulting from years of living in forced evacuation.

Many victims have not filed lawsuits despite their unhappiness with damage payments offered by TEPCO. The plaintiffs of the rulings contend that the amounts granted by the courts are still insufficient. The committee should listen to the opinions of the victims and local administrations involved and examine a broad range of cases. It should not hesitate to make necessary adjustments to the guidelines in line with the realities.

This problem is an acid test for TEPCO’s commitment to supporting victims of the disaster. The company has consistently refused to pay compensation beyond the amounts based on the guidelines in both class action lawsuits and in mediations by a government dispute-settlement body. It has apparently decided to wait for the committee’s decision. As the company responsible for the disastrous accident, TEPCO’s stance toward the issue raises serious doubt about its awareness of its obligation to make genuine efforts to provide relief to victims.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is effectively the primary shareholder of the utility under state control, must instruct the company to address the problem with sincerity.

The central government and TEPCO should not forget that they bear the grave responsibility to make all possible efforts to fully compensate victims for damages caused by the nuclear disaster.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan gov’t, TEPCO ordered to pay $2.63 mil. over Fukushima nuclear crisis

Plaintiffs’ lawyers hold banners in front of the Tokyo High Court on Feb. 19, 2021, that say they have won a damages suit against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. over the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

February 19, 2021

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A Japanese high court on Friday overturned a lower court decision that dismissed the state’s responsibility in the 2011 nuclear crisis, ordering both the government and the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s operator to pay damages to 43 people who had to evacuate from their hometowns as a result.

The Tokyo High Court ordered the state to cover the total damages of 278 million yen ($2.63 million) together with Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., following the precedent set by the Sendai High Court last September.

It marked the third high court ruling among 30 similar lawsuits filed across the country, and the second in which both the state and the utility were ordered to pay damages over radioactive contamination following the meltdowns at the plant.

Presiding Judge Yukio Shiraishi said it was “extremely unreasonable” for the government not to use its regulatory power to force the operator widely known as TEPCO to take preventive measures against the tsunami that triggered the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

If it had done so, “the impact of the tsunami would have been significantly reduced, and the facility would not have lost all power,” he said.

The court also ruled that the evacuees should be compensated for their mental distress, in addition to the 100,000 yen per month to be awarded to them as consolation for prolonged evacuation.

In a lawsuit filed with the Chiba District Court, 45 people collectively sought around 2.8 billion yen in damages from the government and the plant operator after they were forced to move from Fukushima Prefecture to Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo.

In 2017, the district court told TEPCO to pay a total of 376 million yen to 42 of the evacuees, but cleared the state of liability, prompting the plaintiffs to appeal the decision.

The focal point of the lower court case was whether the government and utility were able to foresee the huge tsunami that hit the coastal plant on March 11, 2011, and take preventive measures beforehand based on the government’s long-term earthquake assessment that was made public in 2002.

The Chiba court ruled that both the state and TEPCO could have predicted the tsunami, but the accident may have been unavoidable even if preventive steps had been taken.

In contrast with Friday’s ruling, the district court ruled the government’s failure to exercise regulatory power to force TEPCO to take preventive measures was “not unreasonable.”

In January, the Tokyo High Court also deemed the government was not responsible for the nuclear disaster in a suit filed by plaintiffs who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture, eastern Japan, and elsewhere.

February 21, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo High Court rules state not liable in 2011 nuclear accident

The Tokyo High Court finds the state not liable for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. A legal team member for the plaintiffs holds up a sign stating, “It is an unjust ruling,” in Tokyo on Jan. 21.

January 22, 2021

The Tokyo High Court has ruled the government should not be held responsible for the 2011 Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant accident and be forced to pay compensation to evacuees.

Residents who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture due to the accident claimed damages against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). But according to the Jan. 21 appellate ruling, the court found the state was not liable and ordered only TEPCO to pay compensation.

That followed a lower court ruling by the Maebashi District Court that found both parties liable.

The Tokyo High Court also raised the total compensation from about 40 million yen ($386,160) for 62 plaintiffs in the lower court ruling to about 120 million yen for 90 plaintiffs.

But the plaintiffs’ lawyers criticized the ruling afterward, contending the court was led astray by the government’s “phony” line of argumentation, and said the increase in compensation still falls far short of the “complete compensation” their clients deserve.

There are about 30 class action suits nationwide filed by evacuees and others over the triple meltdown at the nuclear power plant. Out of 14 lower court rulings, the state was held responsible in seven cases.

The higher court appellate ruling was the second such case since the Sendai High Court ruling last September. But the Sendai court held the state responsible. The rulings were divided both at the lower and higher court levels.

The main issue of contention in this latest ruling was the credibility of a long-term evaluation report, prepared by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002.

The Maebashi District Court found the evaluation to be credible in establishing liability. The report suggested the possibility that an 8.2-magintude earthquake and tsunami could occur off the coast of the Tohoku region.

But on the other hand, the Tokyo High Court did not find the evaluation to be credible at establishing liability, partly because it differed from the perspective given by a civil engineering society at the time.

“We can’t say that the occurrence of the tsunami was foreseeable based on the long-term evaluation,” the court said.

Furthermore, the higher court said, “You couldn’t have avoided the accident even if preventative measures were taken based on the long-term evaluation.” That is because there was a big difference between the size and type of the tsunami risk calculated by TEPCO based on the evaluation and the actual tsunami that hit.

The higher court concluded that the government was not acting in a significantly unreasonable manner by not invoking its regulatory authority to order TEPCO to take preventative measures.

Meanwhile, the higher court did find TEPCO responsible, and said that the “plaintiffs’ interests to lead their peaceful daily lives were infringed upon due to the accident.”

The Maebashi District Court had ordered TEPCO to pay 38.55 million yen to 62 out of 137 plaintiffs. But the higher court evaluated their areas of residence prior to the evacuation on a case-by-case basis, and therefore increased the overall amount to about 120 million yen for 90 plaintiffs, with payments to individuals ranging from 70,000 yen to 14.94 million yen.

After the higher court ruling, the legal team for the plaintiffs issued a statement disapproving of the logic behind the ruling.

“The court was tricked by the government’s phony argument and put more importance on the civil engineering evaluation–which was nothing but the standard within the industry–than the long-term evaluation.”

“The ruling was the exact opposite of the Sendai High Court decision,” Izutaro Managi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said at a news conference. “The reason why the court did not admit the foreseeability (of the tsunami) is the worst of all the rulings so far.”

January 25, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

High court denies government responsibility for Fukushima nuclear crisis

Decommissioning work is under way at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

January 21, 2021

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to pay damages to evacuated residents, but it overturned an earlier ruling by Maebashi District Court that had also acknowledged the central government’s responsibility over the 2011 nuclear crisis.

Among around 30 such lawsuits across the country, the decision of the Tokyo High Court was the first high court ruling absolving the state of responsibility, contradicting an earlier decision of the Sendai High Court in September that ordered both the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay damages.

The government’s failure to instruct Tepco to take measures against tsunamis “is not found to be significantly unreasonable,” Presiding Judge Akira Adachi said in handing down the ruling.

The lawsuit focused on the reliability of an official long-term quake assessment made in 2002, which has been used in previous rulings to determine the liability of the state and Tepco for their failure to prevent the nuclear disaster.

Adachi noted the assessment had caused a debate since its release, and that the government was unable to predict a huge tsunami.

Implementing measures such as constructing seawalls would not have prevented the tide from entering the nuclear plant, he added.

Thursday’s ruling instead ordered Tepco to pay a total ¥119.72 million to 90 plaintiffs, more than triple the amount awarded in the lower court ruling.

In March 2017, the Maebashi District Court awarded a total of ¥38.55 million to 62 plaintiffs who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture, including those who voluntarily left, acknowledging the government and the utility were negligent in preparing for a tsunami like the one that struck the facility.

The district court said the disaster was caused by a failure to cool nuclear fuel as water entered turbine buildings through air supply openings in the wake of the tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake, crippling emergency switchboards.

The lawsuit was filed by a total of 137 plaintiffs relocated to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere. They sought a combined ¥1.5 billion — ¥11 million each — in damages for emotional distress.

They were forced to leave their hometowns as three reactors suffered meltdowns at the plant after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

The plaintiffs said they had lost their livelihoods and faced inconvenience for an extensive period, and the amount they received under the current state compensation guidelines was not enough.

January 25, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan Gov’t liability denied for nukes damages, Tepco to pay minimal damages to evacuees

Satoshi Abe (standing), head of the plaintiffs’ legal team, speaks at a news conference following the Yamagata District Court ruling in the city of Yamagata, northern Japan, on Dec. 17. 2019.
TEPCO ordered to pay minimal damages to Fukushima evacuees; Japan gov’t liability denied
December 18, 2019
YAMAGATA — The Yamagata District Court on Dec. 17 ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay a total of 440,000 yen in damages to five plaintiffs who evacuated due to the March 2011 triple-meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, while also absolving the Japanese state of liability.
Not only did the ruling dismiss the plaintiffs’ damages claims against the central government, the compensation amount falls far short of the more than 8-billion-yen (about $73 million) total sought by the 734 people in 201 households who were party to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs, who evacuated from Fukushima to neighboring Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan following the nuclear disaster, have stated they will appeal.
The ruling was the 13th by a district court in similar cases filed across the country. Among those, 10 lawsuits were filed against the government and TEPCO, and the state was found liable in six of them.
Regarding the plaintiffs beyond the five granted compensation, Presiding Judge Nobuyuki Kaihara stated that “the consolation money sought does not exceed what they have already been paid by Tokyo Electric,” among other reasons for denying them damages.
The decision went on to say that “there was a limit” to what degree the tsunami that disabled the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s cooling systems could have been predicted, and therefore the Japanese state was not liable to pay the nuclear disaster evacuees compensation. The court also found that though TEPCO was liable for some damages, “we cannot conclude that the company committed gross negligence. Practically speaking, it is difficult to say that the firm could have implemented rational controls (at the plant) to prevent an accident.”
The plaintiffs’ suit had demanded 11 million yen in compensation per person — the highest of any nuclear disaster evacuee civil suit in Japan save one filed with the Fukushima District Court. More than 90% of the households that were party to the Yamagata lawsuit had lived in the city of Fukushima and other parts of the northeastern prefecture not covered by mandatory evacuation orders.
“The ruling was a result that betrayed our expectations,” commented Satoshi Abe, who led the plaintiffs’ legal team. Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulation Authority secretariat refrained from comment on the case, while TEPCO stated that it would “examine the content of the ruling and consider a response.”
Court denies state liability for nuke damages
December 18, 2019
YAMAGATA (Jiji Press) — The Yamagata District Court rejected Tuesday the claim that the government is liable for damages over the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Meanwhile, the court ordered TEPCO to pay a total of ¥440,000 in compensation to five plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by 734 people of 201 households who evacuated to Yamagata Prefecture after the nuclear accident.
About 90% of the plaintiffs, who sought some ¥8,074 million in total damages, are evacuees from outside areas for which a government evacuation order was issued following the triple meltdown accident at the plant, stricken by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The ruling marked the 10th of its kind for collective lawsuits against the government and TEPCO over the nuclear accident. This is the fourth time that state liability for damages has been denied.
The plaintiffs said the government and TEPCO could have predicted a tsunami that would lead to a nuclear accident on the basis of a long-term assessment to forecast the scale and probability of earthquakes. The assessment was disclosed by a government organization in 2002.
The accident could have been avoided if the government and TEPCO had set up coastal levees and made the emergency power system watertight, the plaintiffs also said.
But Presiding Judge Nobuyuki Kaihara rejected the claim of government liability for compensation. “Although there was a foreseeability [of the accident], we can’t help saying that there was a limit to it,” he said.
The court ordered TEPCO to pay some compensation under the law to compensate for nuclear-related damages.
“I wanted [the court] to understand our hardship,” said a female plaintiff who evacuated with her three children from Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the crippled nuclear power plant

December 24, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Japan court finds government liable for nuclear disaster


December 13, 2019

A Japanese court has ruled for the first time that the government bears partial responsibility for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The court was responding to a case brought by a group of evacuees who had been forced to flee their homes.

It ruled that the disaster could have been averted if government regulators had ordered plant operator Tepco to take preventive safety measures.

The government and Tepco were both ordered to compensate the evacuees.

Around 80,000 people were forced to flee their homes when three reactors failed at the plant after a tsunami that struck six years ago.

It was the world‘s most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The district court in Maebashi, north of Tokyo, ruled in favour of 137 evacuees seeking damages for the emotional distress of fleeing their homes.

The parties were told to pay a total 38.6m yen ($341,000, £275,000) in compensation, far below the 1.5bn yen the group had sought.

A number of legal cases have already been filed against Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power) relating to the disaster, but this is the first time a court has recognised that the government was liable for negligence.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government‘s top spokesman, declined to comment but said the ruling would have no impact on the country‘s nuclear power policies.

Anti-nuclear sentiment runs high in Japan, but the government has been resolute in restarting reactors that were closed in the aftermath of the disaster.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Court absolves government of blame in nuclear disaster

hkjml.jpgPlaintiff Takahiro Kanno, left, speaks about the verdict in Chiba’s Chuo Ward on March 14.


March 15, 2019

CHIBA–A district court here on March 14 absolved the central government of responsibility but ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to pay compensation to nine of 19 plaintiffs who evacuated to Chiba.

The Chiba District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay a total of about 5.1 million yen ($45,630) to nine plaintiffs who evacuated out of radiation fears following the nuclear accident triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The 19 plaintiffs were from six households who voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima to Chiba Prefecture. The plaintiffs sought a total of 247 million yen from TEPCO and the central government.

While the presiding judge ordered TEPCO to pay compensation to nine plaintiffs from four households, it denied the central government’s responsibility.

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March 18, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Study to emphasize individual solutions to big issues as a way to reduce support for government efforts

To emphasize individual solutions to big issues is for sure needed, but it should never be used to discharge corporations and government from their own responsibilities



Emphasizing individual solutions to big issues can reduce support for government efforts

Following the shutdown of the Fukushima power plant, which endured one of the worst nuclear accidents in history in 2011 due to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami, Japan began a national initiative that encouraged saving electricity. This created an opportunity for Seth Werfel, a graduate student in political science at Stanford University, to investigate how recognition of individual efforts to improve energy usage might affect support for government-based solutions.

He found that the more people said they curbed energy use on their own, the less they supported a tax increase on carbon emissions.

“At first, I thought this result was counterintuitive because you’d expect people who took those actions to support government action as well,” said Werfel, whose work was published today in Nature Climate Change. “But it is intuitive, just not obvious. When the surveys made people feel like they’d done enough, they said that the government shouldn’t make them do more.”

Although his study was focused on an environmental issue, Werfel said other research suggests this reaction could be highly pervasive, affecting many other issues. He also found that the loss of support for government actions among the people who reported their personal efforts occurred regardless of political ideology.

How surveys changed support

Taking advantage of the energy-saving initiative, Werfel surveyed about 12,000 people in Japan. All surveys included a question about the extent to which people supported a government tax increase on carbon emissions. Half of the surveys contained a checklist that respondents used to indicate energy-saving actions they performed. On average, people who received the checklist surveys were about 13 percent less likely to support the government tax than people who did not receive a checklist.

People who performed the checklist tasks also indicated on the accompanying survey that they felt that individual actions were more important than those of the government for achieving energy sustainability, and that conserving energy and protecting the environment shouldn’t be a top national priority.

Werfel then sent checklist surveys to about 200 respondents who had been in non-checklist groups. Compared to how they responded in the initial, non-checklist survey, the respondents who checked the most boxes in the list of energy-saving actions in this second survey exhibited the greatest increase in their opposition to government actions. Werfel said this seems to indicate that people who perform more of these types of actions are more likely to see individual contributions as sufficient progress toward energy-saving goals.

Additional surveys showed that a checklist containing only one very easy individual action did not affect people’s support of the carbon tax. However, people were 15 percent less likely to support the tax if they checked a box stating that they thought recycling was important – an effect that was largest among people who said they cared most about the environment. Werfel stressed that this, as with all of these results, should lead people to not assume anything about the behavior of any one person.

“It would be way too strong to say these findings apply to someone who spends their life being environmentally conscious and advocating for government support of pro-environment initiatives,” he said.

Werfel also tested whether making people feel morally good about themselves made them more likely to oppose government action, but the results of that survey were inconclusive.

Striking a balance between pride and complacency

Werfel said he believes this phenomenon likely impacts issues beyond environmentalism, such as disease prevention, economic inequality and homelessness, a hypothesis he is currently investigating. Given the evidence so far, Werfel cautions that we should be more aware about the potential downsides of celebrating every individual and private sector contribution we see as benefitting the greater good.

“Sometimes there’s a danger to thinking you’ve done enough,” said Werfel. “We spend a lot of time encouraging people to do these things at home – to care about them and announce that they’ve done them – and there could be some backfire effect.”

More information: Seth H. Werfel. Household behaviour crowds out support for climate change policy when sufficient progress is perceived, Nature Climate Change (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3316


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June 13, 2017 Posted by | environment | , , | 1 Comment

Opposition lawmakers slam reconstruction minister


Japan’s opposition parties are criticizing Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura for remarks he made about evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture. He suggested they were responsible for their decision to abandon their homes following the nuclear accident in 2011 because they weren’t instructed to do so by the government.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Imamura quarreled with a reporter who asked whether the government is dodging its responsibility to support the voluntary evacuees. Imamura later apologized for his behavior.

But the opposition Democratic Party’s Diet affairs chief, Kazuya Shimba, pounced on his remarks on Wednesday. He said they were out of bounds and showed a total lack of sympathy for the displaced. Shimba said it angered him to think how much Imamura has hurt them.

He said the minister was unqualified for his job, and an apology wasn’t good enough.

Keiji Kokuta of the Japanese Communist Party took issue with Imamura’s response to a question about whether the evacuees had only themselves to blame if they weren’t able to return to their hometowns. Kokuta said Imamura’s response amounted to saying, “Basically, yes.”

He said this shows a lack of understanding of such issues as reconstruction and voluntary evacuation.

Seiji Mataichi of the Social Democratic Party issued a statement calling Imamura’s words careless, abusive, and totally unacceptable. He urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to dismiss him.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defended Imamura, saying he would continue to carry out his duties as reconstruction minister.

He told reporters on Wednesday that Imamura meant it was up to each evacuee to decide where and how to live.

Suga stressed that the central government will offer strong support to those affected by the nuclear accident in cooperation with the Fukushima Prefectural Government.

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Reconstruction Minister Says Government Has No Responsibility to 3/11 Voluntary Evacuees

Masahiro Imamura, minister in charge of rebuilding from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, is surrounded by reporters in Tokyo on April 4 as he explains his remarks about Fukushima residents who fled on a voluntary basis.

3/11 ‘voluntary evacuees’ are on their own, says angry minister

The minister in charge of rebuilding Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear disaster unfolded stormed out of a news conference after he faced repeated questions on the government’s responsibilities to locals who choose not to return home.

Masahiro Imamura said that the central government is no longer responsible for those people from areas not under evacuation orders at the news conference on April 4.

When a journalist pressed Imamura on the issue, the minister snapped at him saying, “You are rude and should never come to another news conference,” before pounding a desk, shouting “Shut up!” and abruptly leaving the Q&A session.

Imamura later apologized to reporters for becoming “emotional,” but did not retract his earlier remark, saying he made an “objective statement.”

Asked about the government’s responsibility for providing assistance to the so-called voluntary evacuees at the news conference in Tokyo, Imamura said: “They are responsible for their lives. They can file a lawsuit or do other things (if they disagree with the central government’s position).”

He added that the central government had done all it could to help, and that those who would not return to their homes in Fukushima Prefecture should take full responsibility for their actions.

Voluntary evacuees refer primarily to mothers and children from Fukushima Prefecture who fled to faraway regions even though they were not forced to evacuate.

The number of such people totaled 30,000 across Japan as of last October, according to the Fukushima prefectural government.

Concerns about their well-being have been mounting since the central and prefectural governments stopped funding free housing to those evacuees at the end of last month.

Support groups said the end of the free housing assistance could lead to a division among Fukushima people.

Locals who fled on a voluntary basis are eligible to receive limited support from the central government and compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, compared with their peers from the designated evacuation zone.


EN-467042-thumbx300Masahiro Imamura, minister in charge of Tohoku reconstruction, apologizes Tuesday for yelling at a freelance journalist during a news conference.

Fukushima disaster reconstruction minister apologizes over outburst at journalist

Masahiro Imamura, minister in charge of reconstructing the disaster-hit Tohoku region, apologized Tuesday for raising his voice to a freelance journalist at a news conference over demanding questions on the government’s support for Fukushima evacuees.

Imamura was repeatedly asked how the central government planned to help those who voluntarily evacuated from areas near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant even though their towns and places of residence had not been designated by the state as mandatory evacuation zones.

On March 31, the Fukushima Prefectural Government terminated its financial assistance for housing for about 26,000 such “voluntary evacuees.”

Many of those evacuees, however, have no intention to or are unable to return to their hometowns in the prefecture because of concerns over radiation, financial difficulties or other reasons.

Imamura maintained that it is the Fukushima Prefectural Government, not the central government, that should extend direct assistance to those evacuees and that Tokyo is ready to support the prefectural government.

The journalist, whose name is not known, continued to call on Imamura to give “a responsible answer.” Imamura eventually demanded he leave the news conference at the Reconstruction Agency in Tokyo.

I’m doing my job in a responsible manner. How rude you are!” Imamura shot back.

You should retract what you’ve just said. Get out!” the minister shouted.

Never come here again!” he also said. The minister ended the news conference by leaving the room.

Later that day, Imamura faced reporters and apologized for his “emotional” outburst at the journalist over his questions and said he will not repeat the behavior.

But he didn’t apologize for his explanation of the central government’s policy on volunteer evacuees. During the news conference, Imamura argued “voluntary evacuees” should bear “self-responsibility for their own decisions” on whether they will return to their hometowns nor not.

You should file a lawsuit (against the state) or do whatever you like,” Imamura also said during the news conference.

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment