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‘No one has taken responsibility’: Fukushima victims decry nuclear bosses’ acquittal

jhjmlm.jpgPeople connected to the support group for a criminal lawsuit for the Fukushima nuclear accident are seen outside the Tokyo District Court in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward on Sept. 19, 2019. Some are holding signs that say the innocent verdict for all parties is an unjust decision.

September 20, 2019

TOKYO — On Sept. 19, the Japanese judiciary returned a verdict that there was no question of criminality relating to one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.

According to the ruling by the Tokyo District Court, the meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station could not have been foreseen, thereby acquitting three of the company’s former executives from responsibility for the disaster.

The three apologized again after the decision was handed down. But with no question now as to whether they were criminally liable for what happened in March 2011, evacuees who lost their families and communities have voiced their contempt for the ruling.

But what lessons are there from the trial on the nuclear meltdown that started off after a mandatory indictment?

The decision to acquit all three men came at 1:15 p.m. in the 104 court room, the largest at the Tokyo District Court. The former TEPCO executives stood totally still as Presiding Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi read the text of the ruling aloud. As he did, a stir broke in the gallery, with some even shouting out in shock and disbelief.

Among those watching the proceedings unfold were people who lost their families to the nuclear disaster. A 66-year-old resident of Hirono in Fukushima Prefecture tried to repress her emotions while watching the three in court.

On March 11, 2011, when the tsunamis came rushing to the nuclear power station, her parents were living in “Deauville Futaba” in the town of Okuma, a care home about 4.5 kilometers southwest of the reactors. Her father was 92, and her mother was 88.

Evacuation orders were issued, and three days later on March 14 they were rescued by Japan Self-Defense Force troops alongside other members of the care home. They then appear to have ridden a bus for about 10 hours to arrive at Iwaki Koyo High School, based in the city of Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture.

With no medical facilities on site and only mats to sleep on in the school’s gym, the evacuees began dying one by one. Her mother passed away around March 15, and her father on the night of March 16. Their daughter only learned of their death about a week later, on March 22.

The daughter was born and raised in Okuma, and her home was just about 3 kilometers from the nuclear plant. She led a close-knit life in the community. Her father worked for the town’s trash disposal facility and other places. He didn’t drink, and was a quiet, honest man. He would look forward every year to the overnight trip he and his brothers in arms in World War II would take to the monument for the fallen in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, also in Fukushima Prefecture.

Her mother was a cheerful person who loved to chat. Even at the care home, she would light up the room where she lived. “Because they were opposites, they made a good couple. They were very kind to me,” their daughter said. For Shichigosan, the annual celebration for girls aged three and seven, and boys aged five, her parents bought her a long-sleeved furisode kimono patterned with vibrant chrysanthemum. She treasures the photo they took on that day.

The daughter’s home was washed away by the tsunamis, and the area is set to host an interim storage facility for radioactive soil generated by decontamination work. The town she and her parents shared their lives in is gone, never to return. Looking for answers as to why her parents had to die, and why the accident that caused such serious damage occurred, she chose to participate in the trial as one of the victims.

At a hearing of the trial in November 2018, she said, “Didn’t TEPCO underestimate the threat from tsunamis? No one has taken responsibility for such huge damage wrought by the disaster. It’s unforgivable.”

She remains unconvinced by the not guilty ruling handed down on Sept. 19 this year. After the trial, she spoke quietly, saying, “The three of them might think ‘We were right,’ but from the victims’ points of view, they got away with the damage they caused. The ruling did not bring answers,” she added, “I can’t think of anything else right now.”

Yoshinobu Ishii, 74, of the village of Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture, lost his mother, Ei, then aged 91, in the midst of the evacuations. Also a resident at the Deauville Futaba care home, she died around March 14, 2011 after she too was evacuated to Iwaki Koyo High School.

She had raised Ishii and his five siblings as a single mother. “She brought us up in the midst of hardship. It’s terrible that she died alone, with none of us there to be with her,” he said, his voice heavy with regret.

But Ishii has no interest in the criminal court case. “Looking at it in hindsight, they could have taken measures to prevent the accident, but at the time no one expected such a terrible disaster to unfold.”

He spent Sept. 19 at home. “It’s important for us to make use of the lessons learned by the accident. But putting the responsibility for it on someone, that kind of talk, is pointless. After all, my mother isn’t coming back,” he said.

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi and Masanori Makita, City News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190920/p2a/00m/0na/007000c?fbclid=IwAR0PfkcR79gbUQtpdfSIMVAmgTj21sLDlM8XjpX4RKcms-Ss2O2FX-nV4rA#cxrecs_s

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Eight years after Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese court acquits trio of negligence over meltdown

This verdict certainly raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.
But the verdict, and the implication that the nuclear power operators cannot be blamed for accidents that may occur, is unlikely to help restore shaky public trust in the industry — especially in a country where earthquakes and tsunamis are common.
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September 19, 2019
TOKYO —  A Japanese court on Thursday found three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. not guilty of professional negligence over the 2011 tsunami-induced reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and two former colleagues were accused of failing to take adequate precautions to safeguard the plant against the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck the region on March 11, 2011. The disaster crippled the plant and spread radioactive contamination across a swath of northern Japan. 
The trial at Tokyo’s District Court marked the only criminal proceedings resulting from the nuclear explosions and meltdown, which forced the evacuation of more than 165,000 people. Tens of thousands are still prevented from returning because of lingering contamination.
The court also found the trio not guilty of causing the deaths of 44 elderly patients who were forcibly evacuated from hospitals. 
Government scientists had warned years earlier of a significant risk of an earthquake and tsunami along Japan’s northeastern coast, imperiling the plant. But the three men argued that they could not have predicted such a massive tsunami, an argument ultimately accepted by the court.
“It would be impossible to operate a nuclear plant if operators are obliged to predict every possibility about a tsunami and take necessary measures,” Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said in handing down the ruling.
The Fukushima meltdown was the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union, and it caused a reevaluation of the risks of nuclear power globally, especially in Germany. 
Japan’s government shut down the country’s 50 other nuclear reactors after the disaster and imposed new safety rules. But in recent years it has reopened nine, with the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushing to restart more, partly to reduce Japan’s reliance on fossil fuels but also because the nuclear lobby retains considerable influence within the corridors of power, experts say.
Prosecution lawyers, who had sought jail sentences of five years, said they will consider whether to appeal the ruling, arguing that the verdict was influenced by the government’s policy on nuclear energy. 
“The ruling says absolute safety is not a requirement,” prosecution lawyer Shozaburo Ishida said at a news conference. “That’s unthinkable. If you believe that a nuclear accident should never happen, you wouldn’t hand down this sort of ruling.”
There was anger at the verdict outside the courtroom, where former residents of the affected area and activists had gathered. The legal action, brought by former residents, was delayed for years after prosecutors twice refused to bring a case. 
“It’s like the court is on Tepco’s side,” said Noboru Honda, a community leader who lost his home and livelihood after the disaster. He described the victims as “stunned” and “indignant” to hear the accident being described as a natural disaster and not the result of human error by Tepco officials.
“They built the plants and bear no responsibility? What about us? Our pain? We had to move nine or 10 times. Even today, families live apart, and we are living a tough life. Where can we direct our indignation?”
Greenpeace condemned the court’s decision, arguing that Japan’s legal system had failed to stand up for the rights of people affected by the meltdown.
“A guilty verdict would have been a devastating blow not just to Tepco but the Abe government and the Japanese nuclear industry. It is therefore perhaps not a surprise that the court has failed to rule based on the evidence,” Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace, said in a statement. “More than eight years after the start of this catastrophe, Tepco and the government are still avoiding being held to full account for their decades of ignoring the science of nuclear risks.” 
Efforts to restart Japan’s nuclear plants have been dogged by safety concerns, tougher regulations and local opposition around the plants, making it unlikely that the government will achieve its target for nuclear energy to supply 20 to 22 percent of the country’s power by 2030.
Muneyuki Shindo, a professor emeritus at Chiba University and critic of Japan’s nuclear regulatory oversight, said the verdict reflected “mainstream thinking” that nuclear power is here to stay despite the risks and raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.
But he said the fact that so many internal documents were revealed during the trial could make regulators more cautious about approving other restarts in future.
The court heard evidence that Tepco executives were warned between 2002 and 2008 that there was a 20 percent chance that an earthquake greater than 8-magnitude could occur off Japan’s east coast in the next three decades, potentially triggering a tsunami significantly higher than the sea wall protecting the plant. 
But the company failed to invest in measures that might have prevented the catastrophe, such as raising the height of the sea wall and installing additional emergency generators.
The 30-foot-high tsunami that followed the earthquake flooded the plant and knocked out the electric power that cooled the reactors, causing explosions and reactor meltdowns.
Executives, struggling with losses from the shutdown of another nuclear plant after an earthquake in Niigata in 2007, were accused of delaying preventive action for cost reasons, but they argued they had not acted because they had considered the warnings unreliable. 
“We once again offer our sincerest apologies for causing great trouble and worries to many people, including people in Fukushima Prefecture,” Tepco said in a statement after the ruling.
The majority-state-owned company said it was “putting all efforts” into Fukushima’s reconstruction, providing compensation for disaster-related damage and carrying out decommissioning work and decontamination. It added that it was determined to reinforce security measures at nuclear power plants.
But the verdict, and the implication that the nuclear power operators cannot be blamed for accidents that may occur, is unlikely to help restore shaky public trust in the industry — especially in a country where earthquakes and tsunamis are common.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

‘What Corporate Impunity Looks Like’: Court Acquits Tepco Executives for Role in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Akihiro Yoshidome, an 81-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner from Tokyo, told AFP he was shocked by the court’s decision. “I had braced myself that we might not get a clean victory, but this is too awful,” Yoshidome said. “This shows Japanese courts don’t stand for people’s interest. This can’t be true.”

 

fukushima_5.jpgIchiro Takekuro, former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), arrives at the Tokyo District Court on September 19, 2019.

September 19, 2019
A Japanese court sparked widespread outrage Thursday by acquitting three former Tepco executives accused of criminal negligence for their failure to take adequate safety measures ahead of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In 2011, a powerful earthquake off the coast of Japan caused a tsunami that severely damaged Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, unleashing tons of radioactive material and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
Prosecutors said Tsunehisa Katsumata, Sakae Muto, and Ichiro Takekuro knew of the severe risk posed to the facility by a tsunami as early as 2008 but refused to act.
“The executives were charged with contributing to the deaths of 44 people who had been living in a hospital and nursing home near the plant and died during the hasty evacuation or soon after,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Yuichi Kaido, lawyer and anti-nuclear activist, told the New York Times that the executives “themselves had done the calculations” on the risk of a tsunami “and hid them for three years.”
“The only way to see this is the court has issued an unfair verdict,” Kaido said following the acquittal.
The court’s decision provoked a furious response from the dozens of people who rallied outside Tokyo District Court hoping the executives would be held accountable.
“I couldn’t be more angry,” a man who was forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima disaster told supporters at a rally following the verdict. “We can’t go back to our normal lives. Those who were at the top of the company at the time must be prosecuted!”
Akihiro Yoshidome, an 81-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner from Tokyo, told AFP he was shocked by the court’s decision.
“I had braced myself that we might not get a clean victory, but this is too awful,” Yoshidome said. “This shows Japanese courts don’t stand for people’s interest. This can’t be true.”

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese legal system fails the victims of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster ex-TEPCO executives found not guilty

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Tokyo, 19 September – The legal system of Japan has once again failed to stand up for the rights of tens of thousands of citizens impacted by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Greenpeace said today. The Tokyo District Court prosecutors, in the only criminal case brought by thousands of Fukushima and other Japanese citizens,(1) ruled that former CEO Tsunehisa Katsumata, and two former Executive Vice Presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, were not guilty in failing to take action that could have prevented the nuclear accident. This is despite evidence presented to the court that they were aware between 2002-2008 that there was a risk of a 15.7 meter tsunami hitting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

A guilty verdict would have been a devastating blow not just to TEPCO but the Abe government and the Japanese nuclear industry. It is therefore perhaps not a surprise that the court has failed to rule based on the evidence. More than eight years after the start of this catastrophe, TEPCO and the government are still avoiding being held to full account for their decades of ignoring the science of nuclear risks,”  said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace Germany (based in Tokyo currently).

The Japanese nuclear industry continues to refuse to act on warnings of seismic hazards at their vulnerable reactor sites, not least TEPCO at its one remaining nuclear plant in Niigata.(2)

The court proceedings, which began in 2017, resulted from persistent efforts by a citizens panel to hold TEPCO to account. The court heard irrefutable evidence that TEPCO executives deliberately ignored evidence of major earthquake risks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Between 2002 and 2008, predictions of the potential of 15.7 meter tsunami were known to TEPCO. This was ten meters higher than the existing seawall at Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO, struggling at the time with major financial losses due to the shutdown of the Kashiwazaki Kariwa reactors following the 2008 Niigata earthquake,(3) refused to invest in protective measures, including raising the seawall height and installing additional emergency generators. 

Deliberately ignoring scientific evidence of the multiple safety risks to Japanese nuclear plants was one of the principal reasons for the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It remains the default setting for the industry today. The people of Japan will be confronted with the dangerous legacy of the Fukushima accident for many decades ahead and longer, so today’s ruling, while a setback, is only part of a long road to justice for the citizens of Fukushima and Japan that will help to prevent another nuclear accident,” said Burnie

Notes:

1 – website of citizen’s support for the court case ;

https://shien-dan.org/

2 -“Technical issues of Japanese seismic evaluations from the point of global and Japanese standards”, Satoshi Sato, Greenpeace Japan, 2015 and Katsuhiko Ishibashi, Emeritus Professor at Kobe University, seismologist, member of NAIIC (the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission), presentation to Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, April 27, 2015 – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nV018TVMec

3 – TEPCO’s Atomic Delusion: Greenpeace Japan, 25 June 2018, see https://storage.googleapis.com/planet4-japan-stateless/2019/08/3d2e8976-atomic_delusion.pdf

https://www.greenpeace.org/japan/uncategorized/press-release/2019/09/19/10278/?fbclid=IwAR3qgZWPmDlUlgBux3Jtjg7sMLlRtTIjD1JcG43hqvc588VKh0LoGaVzxiw

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Former Tepco executives found not guilty of negligence

As expected the former Tepco executives were found not guilty of criminal negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. That despite all the obvious, as a guilty verdict would harmed Abe’s government nuclear policy. Never mind the victims, Abe’s regime safety comes first.
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Tsunehisa Katsumata (left), former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., arrives at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo on Thursday.
Former Tepco executives found not guilty of criminal negligence in Fukushima disaster
 
September 19, 2019
Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. were acquitted Thursday on charges of failing to prevent the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
At the Tokyo District Court, former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, along with Ichiro Takekuro, 73, and Sakae Muto, 69, both former vice presidents, had argued they could not have foreseen the massive tsunami that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and caused core meltdowns.
All three pleaded not guilty to the charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, arguing that the data available to them beforehand was not reliable.
The three were indicted for failing to implement tsunami countermeasures leading to the deaths of 44 people — including patients forced to evacuate from a hospital — as well as for injuries sustained by 13 people in a hydrogen explosions at the plant.
Court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors had called for five-year prison terms for the trio, claiming they would have prevented the nuclear disaster if they had fulfilled their responsibility to collect information and implement safety measures.
The three were charged in 2016 by the court-appointed lawyers after an independent panel of citizens mandated indictment.
The panel’s decision came after Tokyo prosecutors twice decided not to charge the men over the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The trial focused on whether the former executives should have foreseen the massive tsunami and prevented the accident, given that it was calculated tsunami waves of up to 15.7 meters could strike the Fukushima plant based on the government’s long-term evaluation of quake risks in 2002. The estimate was reported to Tepco in 2008.
The defense team argued the three could not have envisaged tsunami waves on the scale of those that hit the plant based on the government evaluation — which the former executives considered unreliable — and said installing coastal levees would not have prevented the disaster.
On March 11, 2011, the six-reactor plant on the Pacific coast was flooded by tsunami waves exceeding 10 meters triggered by the magnitude 9.0 quake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply.
Reactors 1 to 3 subsequently suffered core meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the building housing the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 units. Around 160,000 people evacuated at one point.
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Women hold banners reading “Everyone is not guilty, unjust sentence” in front of Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo September 19, 2019
Tokyo court clears former Tepco executives of negligence over Fukushima disaster
September 19, 2019
TOKYO (Reuters) – A Tokyo court cleared on Thursday three former Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T) executives of negligence for the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the only criminal case to arise out of the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
Former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and one-time executives Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro were all found not guilty by the Tokyo District Court.
The trial, which started in June 2017, was conducted by state-appointed lawyers after prosecutors decided not to bring charges against the executives of the company known as Tepco.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, located about 220 km (130 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, sparking three reactor meltdowns and prompting Japan to shut down its entire fleet of nuclear reactors.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Trial of Tepco executives over Japan’s Fukushima disaster heads to conclusion

kjkmlù.jpgThe Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, is seen in these aerial view images taken in October 2008 (top) and on February 26, 2012, in this combination photo released by Kyodo on March 7, 2012, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami

September 17, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Tokyo court will hand down a verdict later this week on whether three Tokyo Electric Power executives are liable for the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the only criminal case to arise out of the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

The trial, which started in June 2017, was conducted by state-appointed lawyers after prosecutors decided not to bring charges against the executives of the company known as Tepco.

Former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and onetime executives Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro apologised during the first hearing at the Tokyo District Court for causing trouble to the victims and society, but pleaded not guilty.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, located about 220 km (130 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, sparking three reactor meltdowns and prompting Japan to shut down its entire fleet of nuclear reactors.

Lawyers acting as prosecutors said the three executives had access to data and studies anticipating the risk to the area from a tsunami exceeding 10 metres (33 feet) in height that could trigger power loss and cause a nuclear disaster.

Lawyers for the defendants, however, said the estimates were not well established, and even experts had divisive views on how the Fukushima reactors would be affected by a tsunami.

The three former Tepco (9501.T) executives are the first individuals to face criminal charges for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but a high bar for proof may prevent a conviction. Prosecutors had declined to bring charges, citing insufficient evidence, but a civilian judiciary panel twice voted to indict the executives, overruling the determination not to go to trial.

“If I were a gambling man I would certainly not bet on a conviction. The citizen-panel initiated trials do not have a good success rate,” Colin Jones, a professor at the Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, told Reuters.

“The charitable view would be that prosecutors don’t take cases unless they know they can win, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the cases they don’t want to take end up being losers,” he said.

Citizen judiciary panels, selected by lottery, are a rarely used feature of Japan’s legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic overreach.

Indictments brought by the panels, however, have a low conviction rate. One review of eight of these cases by the Eiko Sogo Law Office found just one, equal to a 17 percent conviction rate, compared with an overall rate of 98 percent in Japan.

Japan’s government estimated in 2016 that the total cost of dismantling Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, decontaminating the affected areas, and paying compensation would amount to around $200 billion (£161.26 billion).

More than 160,000 residents fled nearby towns in the aftermath of the March 2011 tsunami as radiation from the reactor meltdowns contaminated water, food and air.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-fukushima/trial-of-tepco-executives-over-japans-fukushima-disaster-heads-to-conclusion-idUKKBN1W2168

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Tepco execs’ lawyers make final plea for acquittal over negligence in Fukushima nuclear crisis

The trial, which began in June 2017, ended on Tuesday. The court is expected to deliver its sentence on September 19.

March 12, 2019
Lawyers for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. called for their acquittal in their final defense plea on Tuesday in a negligence case stemming from the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011.
The defense team said that it was impossible for them to foresee the massive tsunami that engulfed the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and caused fuel meltdowns following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the coastal Tohoku region.
The day after the nation marked the eighth anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disasters, the lawyers for Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, Tepco chairman at the time of the crisis, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both vice presidents, told the Tokyo District Court they “do not recognize any predictability in the disaster.”
The three men have been indicted for allegedly failing to take measures against the massive tsunami and causing the deaths of 44 hospital inpatients and injuries to 13 others during the evacuations prompted by fuel meltdowns and hydrogen explosions at the plant.
Court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors have called for five-year prison terms for the three, claiming they could have prevented the nuclear disaster had they fulfilled their responsibilities in collecting information and taking safety measures.
Read more :
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/03/12/national/crime-legal/ex-tepco-execs-lawyers-make-final-plea-acquittal-negligence-fukushima-nuclear-crisis/?fbclid=IwAR2diwN8B9xxWiBJU5dy6WbXrgx8tSoW32lwWTqR5Vi6gRuwf04Pmi8Ziq8#.XIhZmMn7Tcs

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

Fukushima prosecutors demand TEPCO execs get 5 years for negligence that led to nuclear meltdown

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December 28, 2018
Fukushima prosecutors demand TEPCO execs get 5 years for negligence that led to nuclear meltdown
Japanese prosecutors have demanded the top three executives at Tokyo Electric Power Company receive five-year prison sentences for failing to take measures to prevent the disastrous triple meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Ex-TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto have all pleaded not guilty to charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, claiming they could not have anticipated the tsunami that triggered the catastrophic meltdown – and that even if they had implemented preventative measures, they wouldn’t have been sufficient to prevent the disaster.
All three executives were told years before the accident that a tsunami could hit the plant, triggering just the sort of catastrophe that culminated in the 2011 meltdown, the prosecution claimed. Not only did the executives not attempt any preventative measures, but they didn’t even try to gather further information about how such an event might endanger the plant.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” the prosecution argued. “That led to the deaths of many people.” The trio faces responsibility for the deaths of 44 people, including 13 hospital patients forced to evacuate themselves amidst the chaos.
The executives claimed they had not been informed of the tsunami risk, opting to shift blame onto their underlings, according to NHK. 
While the Fukushima meltdown took place seven years ago, the prosecution has only just now delivered its sentencing recommendations in a trial that nearly did not happen. Public prosecutors twice chose not to seek indictments against the TEPCO brass, but an independent citizens’ panel pushed for a trial.
Last year, Fukushima victims won a landmark class action suit that found TEPCO officials had not adequately prepared for potential disasters. A $4.5 million payout was split among 3,800 plaintiffs.
The chain-reaction Fukushima disaster, beginning with an earthquake, leading to a tsunami and culminating in the worst meltdown since Chernobyl, is believed to have killed 19,000 people. The radiation released from that catastrophe has also begun taking its toll, with the first official radiation death tallied in September. The area surrounding Fukushima is still highly radioactive, and 30,000 people have been unable to return to their homes.

 

January 2, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Prosecutors demand 5-year prison terms for Tepco’s ex-bosses for Fukushima nuclear disaster

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Prosecutors say TEPCO leaders should have known the risks a tsunami could pose to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which sits along Japan’s eastern coast. Here, the Unit 3 reactor is seen this past summer, amid storage tanks of radiation-contaminated water.
Executives In Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Deserve 5-Year Prison Terms, Prosecutors Say
December 26, 2018
The former chairman and two vice presidents of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. should spend five years in prison over the 2011 flooding and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japanese prosecutors say, accusing the executives of failing to prevent a foreseeable catastrophe.
Prosecutors say the TEPCO executives didn’t do enough to protect the nuclear plant, despite being told in 2002 that the Fukushima facility was vulnerable to a tsunami. In March of 2011, it suffered meltdowns at three of its reactors, along with powerful hydrogen explosions.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” prosecutors said on Wednesday, according to The Asahi Shimbun. “That led to the deaths of many people.”
Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78; former Vice President Ichiro Takekuro, 72; and former Vice President Sakae Muto, 68, face charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury. Muto and Takekuro once led the utility’s nuclear division. All three have pleaded not guilty in Tokyo District Court, saying they could not have predicted the tsunami.
The stricken plant triggered mandatory evacuations for thousands of people. Prosecutors attribute 44 deaths to the incident, including a number of hospital patients who were forced to leave their facilities.
The sentencing recommendation came as prosecutors made their closing arguments on Wednesday, more than two years after the executives were initially indicted.
The next step in the case will see a lawyer for victims and their families speak in court on Thursday. But it won’t be until March of 2019 that defense lawyers will deliver their closing arguments, according to Japan’s NHK News.
Hinting at what the defense’s argument might be, NHK cites the prosecutors saying, “the former executives later claimed that they had not been informed, and that the executives put all the blame on their subordinates.”
The case has taken a twisting journey to arrive at this point. In two instances, public prosecutors opted not to seek indictments against the three TEPCO executives. But an independent citizen’s panel disagreed, and in early 2016, prosecutors in the case — all court-appointed lawyers — secured indictments against the three former TEPCO leaders.
Both TEPCO and the Japanese government lost a class-action lawsuit in late 2017, when a court found that officials had not prepared enough for potential disaster at the Fukushima power plant. In that case, the Fukushima district court ordered payments totaling nearly $4.5 million to about 3,800 plaintiffs.
All told, around 19,000 people are estimated to have died in eastern Japan’s triple disaster that included a powerful earthquake off the coast of Tohoku, a devastating tsunami, and the worst nuclear meltdown since the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986.
In September, Japan’s government announced the first death due to radiation that was released at the Fukushima plant.
The region is still sharply feeling the results of the calamity. As of late November, more than 30,000 people who fled the area had still not returned, Kyodo News reports.
 
 
 
Jail term demanded for ex-bosses over Fukushima nuclear crisis
The charges are the only ones to have stemmed from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986
December 26, 2018
DANGEROUS. A staff member of the Tokyo Electric Power Company measures radiation levels between reactor unit 2 and unit 3 (Rear) at the tsunami-crippled Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture.
TOKYO, Japan – A 5-year jail term was sought for 3 former executives at the company operating Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, media reported Wednesday, December 26, the only people to face criminal charges over the 2011 meltdowns.
Former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro are charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury, and have pleaded not guilty.
They are the only charges to have stemmed from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
Attorneys, who are exceptionally acting as prosecutors in the trial, said the 3 executives were aware of data indicating the nuclear plant risked being hit by a tsunami with waves exceeding 15 meters (52 feet) – enough to trigger power loss and cause severe accidents.
“They should have halted operations at the nuclear plant” until the company finished anti-tsunami measures, including construction of a breakwater, the prosecutors told Tokyo District Court, according to Jiji Press.
Katsumata, 78, has said during the trial he could not have predicted the towering waves that pummelled Japan’s northeast coast and swamped reactors in March 2011.
The disaster forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes near the plant. Many are still living in other parts of Japan, unable or unwilling to go back home as fears over radiation persist.
The charges against the ex-bosses are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalized patients who were hastily evacuated from the Fukushima area and later died.
Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.
But a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in 2015 that the trio should be put on special trial in which designated attorneys accuse defendants and demand a penalty.
Waves as high as 14 meters swamped the reactors’ cooling systems in March 2011 after a 9.0 magnitude tremor.
Although the quake-tsunami disaster left some 18,500 people dead or missing, the Fukushima accident itself is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone.
A parliamentary report a year after the disaster said Fukushima was a man-made crisis caused by Japan’s culture of “reflexive obedience.”

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 2 Comments

5-year prison terms sought for former TEPCO executives

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Five-year jail terms are being sought for former Tepco executives Tsunehisa Katsumata (left), Ichiro Takekuro (middle) and Sakae Muto for their alleged failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in 2011.
5-year prison terms sought for former TEPCO executives
December 26, 2018
Prosecutors on Dec. 26 demanded five-year prison terms for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the disaster caused by a tsunami slamming into the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” the prosecution said at the trial at the Tokyo District Court. “That led to the deaths of many people.”
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former chairman of TEPCO, Sakae Muto, 68, former vice president, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former vice president, are standing trial on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in connection to the triple meltdown at the plant in 2011.
According to the prosecution, the failure of the three to take countermeasures against tsunami led to the deaths of 44 people and the injuries of many others.
Many of them were hospital patients who were forced to evacuate when the nuclear crisis unfolded.
The defendants have all pleaded innocent. They said they had no way of predicting a tsunami of the height that inundated the Fukushima plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Prosecutors had dropped the case against the three, but they were mandatorily indicted by an inquest of prosecution committee comprising ordinary citizens.
Lawyers are acting as prosecutors in the trial.
Shozaburo Ishida of the prosecution side said if a nuclear accident occurs, it results in an irreparable situation in which radioactive materials are spread.
He said the three defendants, who were in the utility’s top management at the time of the Fukushima disaster, should be held responsible because they failed to pay close attention to the safety of the plant.
The prosecution accused the three of “postponing” anti-tsunami measures despite learning that an in-house analysis showed that a tsunami of up to 15.7 meters in height could hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The plant sits on land 10 meters above sea level.
According to the prosecution, the three gave the nod to anti-tsunami measures in 2008 based on a government assessment report about the probability of earthquakes striking Japan.
However, they stalled in taking the necessary steps, the prosecution said.
During the trial, the defendants denied the credibility of the government’s long-term assessment report.
They also said “15.7 meters” was a preliminary figure, and that asking the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to evaluate the appropriateness of TEPCO’s projection does not amount to “postponing” anti-tsunami measures.
5-year prison terms sought for 3 ex-TEPCO execs over nuclear disaster
December 26, 2018
TOKYO — Five-year prison terms were sought for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on Dec. 26 over a nuclear disaster at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northeastern Japan in 2011.
A court-appointed lawyer who indicted the three — Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former chairman of TEPCO; Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former vice president; and Sakae Muto, 68, another former vice president — demanded the punishments at a Tokyo District Court hearing.
Prosecutors had abandoned indicting the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel comprising those selected from among members of the general public deemed twice that they deserve indictment, a court-appointed lawyer indicted them in accordance with the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.
The lawyer said the defendants’ failure to take measures to prevent tsunami caused the accident.
“Even though the defendants were the top-ranking executives of a nuclear plant operator, they failed to do what they should have done, continued to operate the nuclear plant and caused the deaths of many people,” the lawyer said. “If they had obtained necessary information on possible massive tsunami on their own authority and taken appropriate measures, they could have prevented the serious accident.”
Katsumata, Takekuro and Muto are charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the March 2011 nuclear accident. Specifically, they are accused of neglecting to take preventive measures while being aware that a massive tsunami could cause an accident at the plant, forcing patients at Futaba Hospital in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma to take shelter for a long time and causing 44 of them to die.
The key point of contention during the trial is whether the three defendants could have predicted the accident before tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake crashed into the plant.
In 2008, TEPCO estimated that tsunami waves as high as 15.7 meters could hit the Fukushima Daiichi complex based on a long-term evaluation by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion. Nevertheless, the company stopped short of taking countermeasures against such massive tsunami at the plant.
Muto had been briefed of the estimate, but chose to put countermeasures on hold because the company asked experts to re-examine the long-term evaluation.
With regard to this, the court-appointed lawyer pointed out that they delayed countermeasures even though they could have predicted the disaster.
The three defendants argued that they took “appropriate procedures,” and that “it’s only natural that we asked experts to examine the evaluation.”
 
Five-year jail terms sought for ex-Tepco executives over Fukushima nuclear crisis
Dec 26, 2018
Five-year prison terms were sought Wednesday for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. for their alleged failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
At the Tokyo District Court, court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors said if the three had collected information properly and prepared necessary safety measures it would have been possible to predict the massive tsunami and prevent the disaster.
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, chairman of the company at the time of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both former vice presidents, have pleaded not guilty, arguing the tsunami was unforeseeable and the disaster would have occurred even if they had implemented preventive measures.
A final hearing for the defense will be held next March.
The court-appointed lawyers said it was clear from earlier testimony that the utility had been informed by one of its subsidiaries in 2008 that a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters could hit the plant, but it did not immediately take preventive steps.
“(Muto) prioritized avoiding suspension of the power plant and put off the problem,” one of the lawyers said.
The three were charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury by the court-appointed lawyers in 2016 after an independent panel of citizens mandated they be indicted.
The independent panel’s decision came after Tokyo prosecutors twice decided against charging the three.
The former executives have been indicted for the deaths of 44 people, including patients forced to evacuate from a hospital, as well as injuries suffered by 13 people, including Self-Defense Force members, resulting from hydrogen explosions at the plant.
A total of 34 hearings have been held since last June, during which 21 witnesses, ranging from current and former Tepco officials to earthquake and tsunami experts, were questioned.
On March 11, 2011, the six-reactor plant located on the Pacific coast was flooded by tsunami waves triggered by a massive quake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply. The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors subsequently suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the No. 1, 3 and 4 units.
As a result of the nuclear crisis, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, around 160,000 people were evacuated at one stage. More than 30,000 of them were still displaced as of late November.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

5 years in prison sought for ex-TEPCO Executives over nuclear disaster

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5 Years in Prison Sought for Ex-TEPCO Execs over Nuclear Accident
Tokyo, Dec. 26 (Jiji Press)–Lawyers acting as prosecutors demanded on Wednesday that three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. each be sentenced to five years in prison over the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.
The three–former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68–did not act though they were aware of possible tsunami, the acting prosecutors said in their closing statement at Tokyo District Court.
The former TEPCO executives were indicted by the acting prosecutors in 2016, after a prosecution inquest panel reversed the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s decision not to file criminal charges against them.
According to the indictment, the three could foresee gigantic tsunami hitting TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant but neglected to take related measures, leading to the company’s failure to prevent the tsunami-triggered meltdown.
They are accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, including the deaths of 44 inpatients at a nearby hospital.
 
Five-year sentences sought for ex-TEPCO execs
The court-appointed lawyers, who serve as prosecutors, have demanded five-year prison sentences for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company. They say the executives are responsible for the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The court-appointed lawyers delivered their closing argument at the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday.
The defendants are former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former vice president Ichiro Takekuro, and former vice president Sakae Muto. They all pleaded not guilty to charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
Public prosecutors decided not to indict the three, but an inquest panel, comprised of randomly chosen citizens, decided that the former executives should stand trial.
In line with that decision, the men were indicted by court-appointed lawyers in February 2016.
The court-appointed lawyers say the defendants were told two to three years before the accident that a massive tsunami could hit the nuclear plant. They also say the defendants did not try to gather information about the potential danger. The court-appointed lawyers indicate that the former executives later claimed that they had not been informed, and that the executives put all the blame on their subordinates.
The court-appointed lawyers also say the defendants should have suspended the plant’s operations when they were told that a massive tsunami could hit the plant.
The court-appointed lawyers maintain that the defendants are responsible because they didn’t do anything to prevent the accident from occurring.
A five-year prison term is the maximum punishment handed down for professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
A lawyer for the bereaved families of the victims will speak at the trial on Thursday. The defense lawyers will deliver their closing argument next March.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Ex-TEPCO Executive Downplays Role in Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown

Three TEPCO leaders are on trial for allegedly delaying tsunami preparation measures.
 
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TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, center, Vice President Takashi Fujimoto, second from left, Sakae Muto, second from right, and others bow before a news conference at the company’s head office in Tokyo, Japan (March 30, 2011).
October 31, 2018
Prosecutors at Tokyo Metropolitan District Court continue to piece together the timeline that led Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to hold off on securing the plant against its worst-case tsunami scenario.
Despite TEPCO staff being assigned to calculate the extent of the tsunami threat, their findings were ignored. Top TEPCO officials are now fighting criminal negligence charges for allegedly neglecting tsunami prevention initiatives.
Experts say the impact of the devastating tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, could have been prevented if sufficient countermeasures were taken. The lengthy criminal trial finished its 32nd session in late October, revealing contradictions in the managerial awareness of the long-term tsunami risks and a controversial shift in the company attitude toward installing appropriate measures.
Former CEO Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, and former Executive Vice Presidents Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, were indicted two years ago on charges of professional negligence resulting in death. All three have pleaded not guilty based on the uncertainty of predicting an “unthinkable” earthquake, which could occur once every thousand years.
Muto bowed his head in front of the judge and offered an apology to those who lost their lives, their families, and those forced to evacuate. From the outset, his initial apology seemed like an admission of responsibility. But it didn’t take long for Muto to maintain his innocence, saying he didn’t recall being briefed on a destructive earthquake or the need for new safety steps.
However, the cross-examination of witnesses at previous court sessions exposed holes in Muta’s pre-hearing affidavit and his statements made in court. TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita, in charge of anti-earthquake measures at the time, gave evidence saying all three officials joined an imperial court meeting in February 2008, where they acknowledged the prediction of a 7.7-meter high tsunami and instructed the building of a 10-meter seawall. The meeting is said to have stressed that new tsunami measures were needed at Fukushima Nuclear Plant based on the long-term evaluation of the country and a hard copy of the report was also distributed to officials. However, in Muto’s affidavit, he originally claimed there was “absolutely no report” and vehemently denied tsunami countermeasures for Fukushima Nuclear Plant were a topic of discussion in the meeting,
An unexpected policy shift away from tsunami preparedness materialized when the TEPCO civil engineering team recalculated the tsunami height risk to 15.7 meters. The team reported the findings to Muto in June the same year. Rather than accelerating earthquake resistance plans, however, as construction proposals ballooned from original estimates and with the risk of unwanted attention on the nuclear power plant’s safety prospects, Yamashita says he was given orders by Muto to scrap the plans. Muto then consulted the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to reassess the findings for a second opinion.
Muto explained in court that he was uncertain of the report’s credibility and that it was natural to gather information on the many aspects he couldn’t make sense of. He repeatedly denied that the move indicated a desire to postpone new safety measures but said it stemmed from lack of alternatives. According to Muto, he didn’t have authority to make decisions over the company in that way.
The Great Eastern Earthquake of March 2011 knocked out power supplies and damaged back up generators, causing vital cooling systems at the nuclear plan to fail. Three reactor cores overheated and began to leak radiation. Seven years on, some 40,000 residents who were forced to flee their homes in Fukushima prefecture are still unable to return to their houses, which have fallen to ruin in the no-go zone. The ongoing trial, propelled largely by a group of Fukushima plaintiffs, offers a small chance at gaining closure and much needed background into the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting tsunami countermeasures on hold at Fukushima nuke plant ‘natural’: ex-TEPCO VP

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 Ichiro Takekuro, a former vice president at Tokyo Electric Power Co., enters the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in this June 30, 2017
October 20, 2018
TOKYO — A former vice president at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) told a court here on Oct. 19 that it was “natural” for the utility to put tsunami countermeasures at the plant on hold while it consulted experts.
Ichiro Takekuro, 72, is under indictment on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the nuclear disaster that broke out after tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011. His testimony at the Tokyo District Court backed fellow defendant Sakae Muto, 68, who made the decision on the tsunami countermeasures.
TEPCO estimated in March 2008 that tsunami waves up to 15.7 meters high could hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, based on a long-term evaluation made by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002. While being aware of the company’s estimate, Muto put tsunami countermeasures on hold in July 2008 and instructed subordinates to ask experts to evaluate the reliability of the long-term evaluation.
A key point of contention in the trial is whether the Muto’s decision constituted “postponement” of countermeasures.
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 Sakae Muto, a former vice president at Tokyo Electric Power Co., enters the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in this June 30, 2017
 
Muto told earlier court hearings that he had informed Takekuro in August 2008 of the company’s maximum tsunami height estimate. However, Takekuro told the Oct. 19 hearing that he had no recollection of that, adding that he heard the estimate from another subordinate sometime in April or May 2009.
With regard to the government’s long-term evaluation, Takekuro said, “I heard that it wasn’t supported by specific proof. I thought thorough discussion was necessary if there were unclear factors,” again justifying Muto’s decision.
As to TEPCO’s estimation that 15.7-meter tsunami waves could hit the power station, Takekuro said he “didn’t feel any sense of urgency.”
Takekuro is standing trial along with Muto and former TEPCO President Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, over the nuclear crisis.
Prosecutors had abandoned indicting the three. However, court-appointed lawyers indicted them after a prosecution inquest panel deemed twice that they deserved to stand trial.

October 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Denials dominate 1st trial questioning of ex-TEPCO VP over tsunami-triggered nuke disaster

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Former Tokyo Electric Power Co. Vice President Sakae Muto
 
October 17, 2018
TOKYO — Denials of allegations dominated the questioning on Oct. 16 of former Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) vice president Sakae Muto in the criminal trial he and other ex-TEPCO leaders face over their responsibility to predict and prevent damage caused by the 2011 tsunami that triggered an unprecedented nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan.
“The charge that I delayed (tsunami countermeasures) is outrageous,” said Muto, 68, during the questioning at the Tokyo District Court. He repeated emphatic rebuttals against the prosecution’s argument that the damage could have been avoided if he had taken appropriate actions earlier.
Muto and two other defendants — former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, and former vice president Ichiro Takekuro, 72 — stand accused of professional negligence resulting in deaths and injuries of evacuees from the nuclear disaster. They were indicted in 2016 by lawyers serving as prosecutors after public prosecutors refused to do so twice and the prosecution inquest committee shot down those refusals.
A massive tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 hit TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, cutting the facility off the power grid and ruining emergency power generators. The prolonged blackout made it impossible to cool down the nuclear fuel cores at three reactors, triggering their meltdowns and the release of massive amounts of radioactive materials into the atmosphere. As a result, hundreds of thousands of nearby residents, including elderly patients, were forced to flee, with dozens dying and others getting injured in the process.
During the questioning on Oct. 16, Muto replied “Not at all” on many occasions when defense lawyers asked him if he procrastinated on introducing measures to protect the nuclear station from potential high tsunami waves three years before the 2011 incident.
When asked by lawyers serving as prosecutors about the exchange he had with his subordinate at the time tsunami countermeasures were discussed, Muto insisted, “I do not recall.” When his answer was cut short by the prosecution, Muto indicated his dissatisfaction, crossing his arms with a big sigh.
According to past testimonies in the trial that began in June last year, Muto and other top TEPCO officials heard reports from subordinates about the need for tsunami countermeasures at the Fukushima plant, and they approved those steps. Muto, however, told the court that the top-level meeting was “for information sharing” and not for decision-making. The defendant also denied that he was briefed on such measures.
The former TEPCO vice president did apologize at the beginning of the questioning, saying, “To the many people who lost their lives, their family members or those who were forced to evacuate their homes, I have caused you great trouble that cannot be expressed in words.” Muto, clad in a dark suit, then stood up, bowed deeply and stated, “I extend my deepest apologies. I am very sorry about what happened.”
(Japanese original by Mirai Nagira, Science & Environment News Department, and Masanori Makita, City News Department)

October 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-TEPCO VP apologizes but denies being told of need for tsunami steps

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Former Tokyo Electric Power Co. Vice President Sakae Muto.

Ex-TEPCO VP apologizes as defendant questioning begins in Fukushima nuclear disaster trial

October 16, 2018
TOKYO — A former vice president of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) apologized on Oct. 16 during court questioning of three ex-TEPCO top officials indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Defendant Sakae Muto, 68, said, “To the many people who lost their lives, their family members or those who were forced to evacuate their homes, I have caused you great pain that cannot be expressed in words, and I extend my deepest apologies. I am very sorry about what happened.”
The questioning of Muto at the Tokyo District Court over the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in northern Japan is scheduled to continue until the evening, with plans to resume on Oct. 17.
The other former executives indicted in the criminal trial are 78-year-old former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice president Ichiro Takekuro, 72. This trial marks the first time that the three top officials will be questioned in detail in a court of law about their responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
According to the indictment, while the three were aware of the possibility of a large tsunami hitting the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Plant, they neglected to take countermeasures, leading to the March 2011 accident. As a result, they are thought to have caused the deaths of 44 patients who had to evacuate from Futaba Hospital in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, near the power plant for a long period of time due to the accident, among other charges.
At the first hearing of the trial in June 2017, Muto said, “Looking back now, there was no way of predicting that such an accident could occur. I do not believe we are responsible.” The other two defendants are also maintaining their innocence in the matter.
Former vice president Takekuro will be questioned on Oct. 19, followed by former chairman Katsumata on Oct. 20.
(Japanese original by Masanori Makita, City News Department, and Mirai Nagira, Science & Environment News Department)
 
 
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Sakae Muto, former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., in January

Ex-TEPCO exec denies being told of need for tsunami steps

October 16, 2018
A former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. refused to take any responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, testifying in court Oct. 16 that he was never made aware of the possibility of destructive tsunami striking the facility and, therefore, did not authorize countermeasures.
Sakae Muto, 68, is on trial on a charge of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the March 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, along with Tsunehisa Katsumata, a former TEPCO chairman, and Ichiro Takekuro, another former TEPCO vice president.
Towering tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake inundated the coastal complex, knocking out cooling systems and triggering a triple meltdown.
Muto denied in the Tokyo District Court that he and the two other top executives once gave the green light for countermeasures against a powerful tsunami three years before the disaster occurred.
“We were never notified that such a thing could happen,” Muto stated.
To prove negligence, prosecutors must show that top executives could have reasonably predicted the scale of the tsunami that swamped the plant, setting off the most serious nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Muto’s testimony followed oral statements given in a previous court hearing by Kazuhiko Yamashita, head of TEPCO’s center tasked with compiling anti-earthquake measures.
In the statetments, Yamashita said he notified Muto, Katsumata and Takekuro in a February 2008 meeting that the height of a powerful tsunami predicted to hit the site would be at least 7.7 meters.
Yamashita’s team arrived at the figure using a simplified calculation based on the long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes released by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002.
Yamashita said in his statements that he took it that the three executives understood his team’s projection was based on a government assessment and that they approved taking anti-tsunami measures.
Yamashita’s statements were made to prosecutors between 2012 and 2014, when he was under investigation in connection with the nuclear disaster. The court accepted them as evidence.
A TEPCO subsidiary’s civil engineering team came up with a figure of 15.7 meters after conducting a more detailed study.
The update was conveyed to TEPCO executives in June that year. But Muto, who was deputy chief of the company’s nuclear power and plant siting division, instructed subordinates the following month to shelve the anti-tsunami measures, according to witnesses who testified in previous hearings.
Asked about the February meeting, Muto denied that he was notified destructive tsunami could strike, or safety steps were required.
“No such topics were raised during the meeting,” he stated.
Muto also characterized the meeting that included Katsumata and Takekuro as “not one to make a decision as an organization, but one to share information.”
With regard to the projection of 15.7 meters, Muto said, “I was briefed that the (government’s) long-term assessment is not credible and thought that no new scientific expertise was available.”
He also rejected suggestions that he postponed taking anti-tsunami measures.
“I simply thought it would be difficult to come up with a design for a strong sea wall straight away,” he said.
Asked whether it was possible that his division alone was empowered to halt plant operations in anticipation of encroaching danger, he emphatically denied this was so.
He said a decision of such gravity is “too weighty in terms of business management that the nuclear power and plant siting division’s decision alone cannot make it happen.”
Muto went on to state: “It would have been necessary for the division to consult with not only many divisions and sections of our company, but also other utilities and central and local governments and explain to them the grounds and the need to halt operations.”
He started his testimony by offering a “deep apology” for causing “trouble beyond description” to people affected by the nuclear disaster.
The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s reactor buildings sit on elevated land 10 meters above sea level. The tsunami spawned by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake reached 15.5 meters around the reactor buildings, according to traces left there.
Prosecutors had initially declined to press charges against the three former executives, citing insufficient evidence. However, a committee for the inquest of prosecution twice concluded that the trio should be indicted.

October 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment