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Fukushima trial should clarify why TEPCO execs didn’t act

protecting sea walls july 1 2017.jpgAn artist’s concept of seawalls to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from tsunami

 

The first criminal trial over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is now under way, drawing fresh attention to key questions concerning the devastating accident and its lasting reverberations.

The focus of public attention will be on whether the reams of evidence collected by public prosecutors, along with statements by those in charge, will provide a clearer picture of how the disaster unfolded.

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operated the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, pleaded innocent June 30 in the first hearing held at the Tokyo District Court.

They are charged with professional negligence resulting in the deaths of 44 people who had to be evacuated from a hospital near the plant, and injuries of others.

While the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office twice decided not to press charges against the three, citing a lack of evidence, independent judicial panels of citizens voted for mandatory indictments against them.

The core question for the trial judge is whether it was possible for them to predict the towering tsunami that inundated the plant, triggering a triple meltdown, and take effective safety measures to prevent the catastrophe.

In his opening statement, the lawyer acting as a prosecutor asserted that the three former TEPCO executives had the “ultimate obligation and responsibility” to ensure the safety of the nuclear facility.

He cited a 2008 estimate by a TEPCO subsidiary involved in the operation of the Fukushima plant that pointed to the “shocking” possibility of the plant being struck by tsunami of up to 15.7 meters. The TEPCO officials proposed that measures be taken to protect the plant from such a tsunami, including the construction of a seawall, but the three executives decided to postpone taking such steps.

The defense team countered by reiterating its argument that it was merely one of many estimates and constitutes no reason to claim that the defendants were able to predict and avoid the accident.

In 2002, a government agency warned that a massive earthquake capable of generating huge tsunami could occur anywhere off the Pacific coast from the northern Sanriku region in Tohoku down to the Boso region in Chiba Prefecture.

The huge 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami caused damage to nuclear power facilities in India.

Japanese nuclear regulators at that time called for steps to enhance the safety of nuclear power plants.

Six years since the harrowing accident, there are still many questions that remain unanswered with regard to TEPCO’s responses to these warnings and developments. How seriously did the utility consider additional safety measures? What steps did the company actually take and fail to take? What are the reasons for its decisions?

There is no denying that most of the TEPCO people involved have done little to help clear up the facts. Their behavior has been marked by insincerity.

The three defendants were summoned by the Diet’s committee that looked into the accident as unsworn witnesses and answered various questions in public.

After that, however, they showed no willingness to offer their own accounts of what happened.

Like many other TEPCO executives, the three defendants have, to this day, refused to agree to their statements made in interviews by the government’s investigative committee to be made public.

Criminal trials are held to determine whether the defendants should be held criminally liable.

The rights of the defendants provided by the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Law should, naturally, be respected. That means there is a limit to what a criminal court can do to clear up the truth.

While recognizing the limitations of what a criminal trial can achieve, we sincerely hope it will shed new light on the accident.

This hope is obviously shared by not just the survivors who have lost their families and hometowns in the accident but also countless others who were affected by the disaster.

The defendants have a duty to help disclose the truth.

In addition to determining whether or not the defendants are guilty of professional negligence, the trial offers an opportunity to reflect deeply on some key questions concerning nuclear power and the related roles of electric utilities and the government; for example, can the safety of nuclear plants be ensured and is there really a viable future for nuclear power generation in this earthquake-prone nation.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707010022.html

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July 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima nuclear disaster: former Tepco executives go on trial

Three men plead not guilty to professional negligence in the only criminal action targeting officials since the triple meltdown

2921From left, former Tepco executives Tsunehisa Katsumata, Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto arriving at court in Tokyo on Friday.

 

Three former executives with the operator of the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have pleaded not guilty to charges of professional negligence, in the only criminal action targeting officials since the triple meltdown more than six years ago.

In the first hearing of the trial at Tokyo district court on Friday, Tsunehisa Katsumata, who was chairman of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) at the time of the disaster, and two other former executives argued they could not have foreseen a tsunami of the size that knocked out the plant’s backup cooling system, triggering a meltdown in three reactors.

I apologise for the tremendous trouble to the residents in the area and around the country because of the serious accident that caused the release of radioactive materials,” Katsumata said, bowing slightly.

Prosecutors alleged that the 77-year-old, along with his co-defendants, Sakae Muto, 67, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71 – both former Tepco vice-presidents – had been shown data that anticipated a tsunami of more than 10 metres in height that could cause a power outage and other serious consequences.

2840Activists protest against Tepco on Friday.

 

A report by a government panel said Tepco simulated the impact of a tsunami on the plant in 2008 and concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 metres (52 feet) could hit the plant if a magnitude-8.3 quake occurred off the coast of Fukushima. Executives at the company allegedly ignored the internal study.

The three men – charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury – have since retired from Tepco.

The company, which faces a multibillion-dollar bill for decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi, is not a defendant in the trial. If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to 1m yen (£7,000).

Although there are no records of anyone dying as a result of exposure to radiation from the plant, prosecutors alleged the executives were responsible for the deaths of 40 elderly people who were evacuated from a hospital near the plant.

The Fukushima plant had a meltdown after the tsunami, triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake, hit the plant on the afternoon of 11 March 2011.

The tsunami killed almost 19,000 people along the north-east coast of Japan and forced more than 150,000 others living near the plant to flee radiation. Some of the evacuated neighbourhoods are still deemed too dangerous for former residents to return to.

They continued running the reactors without taking any measures whatsoever,” the prosecutor said. “If they had fulfilled their safety responsibilities, the accident would never have occurred.”

Muto challenged the allegation by the prosecution that he and the other defendants failed to take sufficient preventative measures despite being aware of the risk of a powerful tsunami more than two years before the disaster.

When I recall that time, I still think it was impossible to anticipate an accident like that,” he said. “I believe I have no criminal responsibility over the accident.”

Investigations into the accident have been highly critical of the lax safety culture at Tepco and poor oversight by industry regulators. Prosecutors considered the case twice, and dropped it both times, but a citizens’ judicial panel overrode their decision and indicted the former executives.

Outside the court, Ruiko Muto, a Fukushima resident and head of the group of plaintiffs, said: “Since the accident, nobody has been held responsible nor has it been made clear why it happened. Many people have suffered badly in ways that changed their lives. We want these men to realise how many people are feeling sadness and anger.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/30/fukushima-nuclear-crisis-tepco-criminal-trial-japan

June 30, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 1 Comment

 

Three former executives of the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have pleaded not guilty over the March 2011 accident.

Nuclear meltdowns occurred at the plant after it was hit by a giant earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The defendants are former Tokyo Electric Power Company Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former Vice Presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto.

They are accused of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of 44 people, including hospital patients forced to stay at evacuation shelters for a long period.

At the start of the trial at the Tokyo District Court on Friday, Katsumata apologized for the serious accident, and causing a great nuisance and concern.

But he said it was impossible to predict the tsunami, and the nuclear accident that followed, at the time.

Takekuro and Muto also offered apologies but pleaded not guilty.

Points of contention will likely include whether the defendants were able to predict that a huge tsunami would hit the plant, and whether the accident could have been prevented if proper steps had been in place.

This is the first trial concerning criminal responsibility for an accident at a nuclear power plant.

Public prosecutors decided not to file charges against the 3 former executives in 2013. But they were indicted in February last year by court-appointed lawyers in line with the decision by a prosecution inquest panel of randomly selected citizens.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170630_1

June 30, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Former Nuclear Power Plant Executives to Stand Trial for the Fukushima Disaster and the Death of Over 40 People

“If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to ¥1 million ($9,000)”

n-tepcotrial-a-20170629-870x435This combination of pictures shows (from left) former Tokyo Electric Power Co. chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former vice presidents of the company Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto.

 

Fukushima Disaster: Former Nuclear Power Plant Executives to Stand Trial for Deaths of Over 40 People

Three former executives at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) are due to stand trial at Tokyo District Court Friday, in connection with the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. 

The trio face criminal charges following three nuclear meltdowns after the emergency generators needed to cool the nuclear reactors malfunctioned following a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan. 

The ensuing nuclear catastrophe—the biggest since Chernobyl in 1986—led thousands of people to flee their homes and resulted in the death of more than 40 hospitalized patients who were evacuated from the Fukushima area, in addition to the estimated 22,000 people killed or unaccounted for after the country’s largest earthquake.

The hearing comes one year after former TEPCO chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and the two former vice presidents Sakae Muto 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71 were charged with professional negligence leading to injury or death. They have all pleaded not guilty ahead of the trial.

We hope the trial will shed light on the responsibility for this accident. The accident hasn’t been resolved. There is nuclear waste from the cleanup efforts everywhere in Fukushima, and there are still many unresolved problems,” Ruiko Muto, who heads the group that pushed for the trial, told The Japan Times.

In 2008, TEPCO conducted an internal study, simulating the events of a 52-foot-high wave and a 8.3 magnitude quake, The Japan Times reported.  The extent of the damage suggested that executives ignored the findings, as the wave that hit the nuclear plant reached 45 feet.

Following the disaster, TEPCO was required to pump tons of water into the plant to cool the reactors. The government spent $15 billion collecting radioactive topsoil from the site, and residents are now, after six years, being encouraged to return home.

Decommissioning the power plant is expected to take four decades. In February, sievert readings of 530 Sv were recorded in reactor No. 2: In context, 1 Sv is enough to cause radiation sickness, while 5 Sv would kill half those exposed after one month.

http://www.newsweek.com/fukushima-disaster-former-nuclear-power-plant-executives-stand-trial-deaths-629675

Ex-Tepco execs to go on trial over Fukushima disaster

Three former Tokyo Electric Power Co. executives are set to stand trial this week on the only criminal charges laid in connection to the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, as thousands remain unable to return to their homes near the shuttered facility.

The hearing on Friday comes more than a year after ex-Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71, were formally charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

The tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant set off the worst nuclear accident since 1986’s Chernobyl incident.

We hope the trial will shed light on where the responsibility for this accident … lies,” Ruiko Muto, who heads a group that pushed for the trial, said. “The accident hasn’t been resolved. There is nuclear waste from the cleanup efforts everywhere in Fukushima and there are still many unresolved problems.”

The trial follows a prolonged battle over whether or not to indict the Tepco executives.

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 — for the second time since the accident — that the trio should be put on trial.

That decision compelled prosecutors to press on with the criminal case.

We want a verdict as soon as possible,” Muto said. “Some victims of this tragedy have died without seeing the start of the trial.”

If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to ¥1 million ($9,000).

Tepco declined to comment on the trial, saying the men “have already left the company.”

The three are expected to plead not guilty, and argue it was impossible to have predicted the size of the massive tsunami that slammed into the country’s northeast coast following a huge undersea earthquake.

However, a 2011 government panel report said Tepco simulated the impact of a tsunami on the plant in 2008 and concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 meters (52 feet) could hit the plant if a magnitude 8.3 quake occurred off the coast of Fukushima.

Executives at the company — which is facing huge cleanup and liability costs — allegedly ignored the internal study.

Waves as high as 14 meters swamped the reactors’ cooling systems in March 2011.

Although the natural disaster left some 18,500 people dead or missing, technically the Fukushima meltdown itself is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone.

The charges against the executives are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalized patients who were hastily evacuated from the Fukushima area and later died.

Around a dozen others — including Tepco employees and members of Self-Defense Forces — were injured during the accident.

The disaster forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes near the plant. Many are still living in other parts of the country, unable or unwilling to go back home, as fears over radiation persist.

A 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said misguided faith in the complete safety of atomic power was a key factor in the Fukushima accident.

It pointed to flaws in disaster preparedness and in plant design, along with unclear responsibilities among regulators.

A parliamentary report compiled a year after the disaster also said Fukushima was a man-made disaster caused by a culture of “reflexive obedience.”

An angry public pointed to cozy ties between the government, regulators and nuclear operators as the reason for the lack of criminal charges.

Campaigners have called for about three-dozen company officials to be held accountable for their failure to properly protect the site against a tsunami.

The accident forced the shutdowns of dozens of reactors across the nation, with just a handful online more than six years later.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and utility companies are pushing to get reactors back in operation, but they face widespread opposition as anti-nuclear sentiment remains high.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/28/national/crime-legal/ex-tepco-execs-go-trial-fukushima-disaster/#.WVR_apLyjcs

 

 

June 29, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan: Ex-bosses to go on trial over Fukushima disaster

jhlkmlmù.jpg

 

TOKYO: Three former executives at Fukushima‘s operator stand trial this week on the only criminal charges laid in the 2011 disaster, as thousands remain unable to return to homes near the shuttered nuclear plant.

The hearing on Friday comes more than a year after ex-Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and former vice-presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71, were formally charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

The indictments are the first — and only — criminal charges stemming from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

“We hope the trial will shed light on where the responsibility for this accident…lies,” Ruiko Muto, who heads a group that pushed for the trial, told AFP.

“The accident hasn’t been resolved. There is nuclear waste from the cleanup efforts everywhere in Fukushima and there are still many unresolved problems,” she said.

The trial follows a battle over whether or not to indict the Tepco executives.

Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges against the men, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.

But a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in 2015 — for the second time since the accident — that the trio should be put on trial.

That decision compelled prosecutors to press on with the criminal case under Japanese law.

“We want a verdict as soon as possible,” Muto said.

“Some victims of this tragedy have died without seeing the start of the trial.”

If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to one million yen ($9,000).

Tepco declined to comment on the trial, saying the men “have already left the company”.

The three are reportedly expected to plead not guilty, and argue it was impossible to have predicted the size of the massive tsunami that slammed into Japan‘s northeast coast following a huge undersea earthquake.

However, a 2011 government panel report said Tepco simulated the impact of a tsunami on the plant in 2008 and concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 metres (52 feet) could hit the plant if a magnitude-8.3 quake occurred off the coast of Fukushima.

Executives at the company — which is facing huge clean-up and liability costs — allegedly ignored the internal study.

Waves as high as 14 metres swamped the reactors’ cooling systems in March 2011.

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.

The charges against the executives are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalised patients who were hastily evacuated from the Fukushima area and later died.

Around a dozen others — including Tepco employees and members of Japan’s Self Defense Forces — were injured during the accident.

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.

A 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said a misguided faith in the complete safety of atomic power was a key factor in the Fukushima accident.

It pointed to weaknesses in disaster preparedness and in plant design, along with unclear responsibilities among regulators.

A parliamentary report compiled a year after the disaster also said Fukushima was a man-made disaster caused by Japan’s culture of “reflexive obedience”.


An angry public pointed to cosy ties among the government, regulators and nuclear operators for the lack of criminal charges.


Campaigners have called for about three dozen company officials to be held accountable for their failure properly to protect the site against a tsunami.


The accident forced the shutdown of dozens of reactors across Japan, with just a handful online more than six years later.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and utility companies are pushing to get reactors back in operation, but anti-nuclear sentiment remains high and there is widespread opposition to the idea.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/japan-ex-bosses-to-go-on-trial-over-fukushima-disaster/articleshow/59347696.cms?TOI_browsernotification=true

 

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

Trial of Three Key Tepco Executives Starting

l3 key executive tepco.jpg

 

The trial of the three key Tepco executives in charge during the Fukushima disaster began this week. They are charged with criminal negligence, for not taking know safety measures to protect the plant against a large tsunami.
The trial
is finally taking place long after prosecutors in Tokyo refused to prosecute the case, thanks to a citizen group using a legal maneuver to force a case to be brought to trial.

The three key TEPCO executives are :
Tsunehisa Katsumata (ex-chairman)
Ichiro Takekuro (ex-vice president)
Sakae Muto (ex-vice president)

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Officials of Fukushima NPP Operator to Face Trial for 2011 Disaster in June

 

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, are to face trial next month for the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto are accused of failing to take appropriate safety measures despite having been able to foresee that the plant would be inundated by tsunami waves.
They have been charged with professional negligence resulting in death or injury.
In 2013, public prosecutors decided not to press charges against the 3.
But they were indicted in February last year by court-appointed lawyers, after a prosecution inquest panel of randomly selected citizens voted to do so.
Preparations for the trial are underway at the Tokyo District Court.
The 3 former executives are expected to plead not guilty at their first hearing on June 30th.
 

 

1048000067.jpg
Former executives of the TEPCO company, which operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) will come up for trial on June 30 for the 2011 nuclear disaster, local media reported on Wednesday
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — In February 2016, former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two ex-vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were accused of failing to take necessary security measures in the face of potential tsunami-related incidents at the NPP.
According to the NHK broadcaster, the preparations for the first hearing is ongoing at the Tokyo District Court.
In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit the Fukushima NPP and led to the leakage of radioactive materials and the shutdown of the facility. The accident is considered to be the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl accident that took place in the Soviet Ukraine in 1986.

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

3 ex-TEPCO execs to be indicted Mon. over Fukushima nuclear disaster

indictment feb 26 2016.jpg

Tsunehisa Katsumata, Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto (from left to right)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will be indicted Monday for allegedly failing to take measures to prevent the tsunami-triggered crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, a lawyer in charge of the case said Friday.

The three, who will face charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, are Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, chairman of TEPCO at the time, and two former vice presidents — Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.

Prosecutors decided not to indict the three in September 2013, but the decision was overturned in July 2015 by an independent committee of citizens that mandated the three be charged on the grounds they were able to foresee the risks of a major tsunami prior to the disaster.

Source close to the matter said the three will be indicted without being taken into custody.

But the trial to look into the criminal responsibility of the then key TEPCO figures is unlikely to start by the end of the year, as preparations to sort out evidence and points of issues apparently require a considerable amount of time, they said.

At the six-reactor plant located on the Pacific coast, tsunamis triggered by the massive earthquake on March 11, 2011, flooded power supply facilities and crippled reactor cooling systems. The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the No. 1, 3 and 4 units.

The Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution has said the former executives received a report by June 2009 that the plant could be hit by tsunami as high as 15.7 meters and that they “failed to take pre-emptive measures knowing the risk of a major tsunami.”

It also blamed the three for the injuries of 13 people, including Self-Defense Forces members, when hydrogen explosions occurred at the plant and the death of 44 hospital patients who evacuated amid harsh conditions.

A group of Fukushima citizens and other people filed a criminal complaint in 2012 against dozens of government and TEPCO officials over their responsibility in connection with what became one of the world’s worst nuclear crises.

But as prosecutors decided not to file charges on them, including then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the group narrowed down its target and asked the committee to examine whether the prosecutors’ decision was appropriate.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160226/p2a/00m/0na/005000c

See also:

http://www.voanews.com/content/utility-former-bosses-to-be-indicted-for-negligence-in-fukushima-meltdowns/3209110.html

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ20160226008

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160226_23/

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-nuclear-prosecution-idUSKCN0Q50FJ20150731

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Plaintiffs
http://www.save-children-from-radiation.org/pages/legal-actions/

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment