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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

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

Japan and Tepco again ordered to pay damages to Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees

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February 20, 2019
Yokohama court orders government and TEPCO to pay $3.8m to 152 residents forced to flee homes after nuclear meltdown.
 
Presiding Judge Ken Nakadaira said the nuclear accident was preventable as the state could have foreseen as of September 2009, based on a projection by experts, that a massive tsunami similar to one that occurred in the ninth century could strike the area again and cause a complete power blackout at the plant.
 
He said it would have been “possible by the end of 2010” to implement steps such as installing emergency power generators that would have prevented damage to core reactors as well as hydrogen explosions that led to the release of massive amounts of radioactive materials outside the plant.
Nakadaira also criticized the state for its assessment before the disaster that Tepco’s anti-tsunami measures were adequate, saying it was a serious “mistake and failure.”
 
The ruling awarded compensation to 152 of the 175 plaintiffs, of whom 50 had evacuated voluntarily and 125 were forced to do so. They had each demanded ¥350,000 per month and compensation of ¥20 million for psychological damage due to “the loss of their hometown” in addition to compensation already paid by Tepco.
 
The ruling was the eighth among approximately 30 similar suits filed by more than 10,000 evacuees.
 
Read more:
 

February 23, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | 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

Court accepts statement in TEPCO trial to show negligence

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A collapsed crane and other debris at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant after tsunami devastated the area on March 11, 2011
 
September 6, 2018
The Tokyo District Court on Sept. 5 accepted the written statement of a former Tokyo Electric Power Co. executive who claimed that his boss abruptly postponed tsunami prevention measures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2008.
The postponement reportedly occurred almost three years before the plant was engulfed by a tsunami on March 11, 2011, resulting in the most serious nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The statement was made by Kazuhiko Yamashita, former head of TEPCO’s center tasked with compiling steps against tsunami at the earthquake countermeasures, to prosecutors from 2012 to 2014. It was read out during the 24th hearing at the court on Sept. 5.
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former TEPCO chairman, former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former TEPCO vice president, are on trial on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury from the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Yamashita’s statement, recorded by investigators, supported arguments by lawyers serving as prosecutors that “defendants postponed measures to protect the plant despite having recognized the necessity for such measures.”
To prove negligence, prosecutors are trying to show that the top executives could have predicted the height of the tsunami that swamped the plant.
Defense lawyers have argued that “the nation’s earthquake forecast was not reliable and measures against tsunami had not been decided yet.”
According to Yamashita’s statement, the three executives approved the implementation of anti-tsunami prevention measures based on earthquake forecast issued by the government professional body but later put off the enforcement of the measures at the plant.
Yamashita was originally scheduled to provide sworn testimony. Instead, Presiding Judge Kenichi Nagabuchi accepted Yamashita’s statement, saying, “(Yamashita) is not in a condition able to testify at the court.”
The statement said TEPCO initially considered options based on a long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes released by the science ministry’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002.
The utility estimated that a tsunami more than 7.7 meters high could hit its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant based on its trial calculation.
In February 2008, when Yamashita proposed the tsunami measures in light of a long-term tsunami risk assessment during a meeting in which Katsumata and two other executives attended, the policy was accepted without opposition and was also adopted at a managing directors’ meeting the following month.
Based on Muto’s instructions, the team had mulled procedures on obtaining a permit to build a seawall to protect the Fukushima No. 1 plant, according to a TEPCO employee who testified at an April hearing.
However, when a TEPCO subsidiary conducted a detailed study on the maximum height of a tsunami on the basis of the assessment, it found in March the same year that a tsunami of “a maximum 15.7 meters” could engulf the Fukushima plant, surpassing the 10-meter height of the site of the plant where major facilities were located.
The findings were reported to TEPCO executives in June 2008 and then to Muto.
Muto in July 2008 decided to put off measures based on the 15.7-meter estimate, according to the statement.
TEPCO’s policy shift was the result of its “executives’ recognition that such measures require massive construction and would make it difficult for TEPCO to explain to the central government and locals that the plant was still safe, which could lead their demands for halting operations of the plant,” the statement said.
“I was surprised that a TEPCO executive had already revealed the inside details of the entity to such an extent,” said lawyer Yuichi Kaido, who is acting on behalf of the independent judicial panel of citizens who recommended the indictment of the three former TEPCO executives. “(TEPCO’s) extraordinariness that it did nothing because it couldn’t take measures was clearly exposed.”

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO asked subsidiary to underestimate tsunami threat at Fukushima nuke plant: worker

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Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) asked a subsidiary in 2008 to underestimate the scale of tsunami that could hit the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant before tsunami devastated the facility in March 2011, a subsidiary employee told a court.
 
The worker at Tokyo Electric Power Services Co. (TEPSCO) appeared as a witness at the hearing of three former TEPCO executives under indictment on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury at the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 28.
 
The man played a key role in TEPSCO’s estimate of the scale of possible tsunami, which could hit the premises of the plant, between 2007 and 2008.
 
Based on a long-term evaluation by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, the employee estimated that tsunami up to 15.7 meters high could hit the atomic power station. In its evaluation, the quake research headquarters had warned that a massive tsunami could occur off the Sanriku region including Fukushima Prefecture. The area was later devastated by a massive tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, causing the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
 
In his testimony, the employee told the court that he briefed TEPCO headquarters of the outcome of TEPSCO’s estimate of possible tsunami in March 2008. An employee at TEPCO headquarters subsequently asked the witness whether the estimated scale of possible tsunami could be lowered by changing the calculation method.
 
In response, the employee recalculated the possible tsunami based on different movements of tsunami waves he assumed, but he obtained an all but identical figure, the employee told the court hearing. He added that in the end, the prediction was not accepted as the utility’s estimate of possible tsunami hitting the power plant.
 
The man testified that his estimation of up to 15.7-meter-high tsunami hitting the power plant was “within the scope of his assumption because the calculation was based on the 1896 Sanriku earthquake that triggered over 30-meter-high tsunami.”
 
During the hearing, court-appointed lawyers, acting as prosecutors to indict the three former TEPCO executives, said that TEPCO headquarters considered measures to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex from tsunami after being briefed of the outcome of TEPSCO’s tsunami estimate.
 
Nevertheless, the lawyers asserted that those who were on the company’s board at the time postponed drawing up tsunami countermeasures by deciding to commission the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to look into the matter, eventually opening the door to the nuclear crisis.
 
Public prosecutors had decided not to indict the three former TEPCO executives. However, under the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution, court-appointed lawyers prosecuted them after a prosecution inquest panel comprising members selected from among the public concluded twice that the three deserved indictment.
 

March 2, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 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

Japanese Government and Utility Are Found Negligent in Nuclear Disaster

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An abandoned home in Futaba, Japan, one of the towns around the Fukushima plant. Nearly 160,000 people evacuated the area after the disaster in 2011.

TOKYO — The Japanese government and the electric utility that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were negligent in not preventing the meltdowns in 2011 that forced thousands of people to flee the area, a district court in eastern Japan ruled on Friday.

It was the first time that a court determined that both the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, and the government bore responsibility for the nuclear disaster that followed a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The decision could influence dozens of similar lawsuits filed by close to 12,000 evacuated residents now living across the country.

According to Japanese news reports of the ruling by the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture, the court said that the disaster, considered the worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986, was “predictable” and that it was “possible to prevent the accident.”

The court ordered the government and Tepco to pay damages totaling 38 million yen, or about $335,000, to 62 residents who were evacuated from the towns around the Fukushima plant and who relocated to Gunma. Each was awarded a different amount, but the total worked out to an average of $5,400 a person.

In their lawsuit, 137 former residents had sued for damages of ¥11 million, about $97,000, per person, and the court awarded damages to half the plaintiffs. About half of them had left on government evacuation orders while the other half had decided to leave on their own. Each case was evaluated individually.

The court weighed whether Tepco and the government had paid adequate damages to the nearly 160,000 people who evacuated from the towns around Fukushima. About 90,000 people have returned or settled in other places, and Tepco has already paid about ¥7 trillion in compensation.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that the central government and Tepco should have foreseen the possibility of a tsunami of the magnitude that hit the plant and that they should have done more to protect the plant.

The March 11, 2011, meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, which is on the eastern coast of Japan, occurred when 32-foot waves breached the power station’s protective sea walls, flooding buildings and destroying diesel-powered electricity generators that were designed to keep critical systems functioning in a blackout.

Tepco did not deny responsibility in a statement on Friday.

We again apologize from the bottom of our hearts for giving great troubles and concerns to the residents of Fukushima and other people in society by causing the accident of the nuclear power station of our company,” Isao Ito, a spokesman, said. “Regarding today’s judgment given at the Maebashi local court today, we would like to consider how to respond to this after examining the content of the judgment.”

Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet minister to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told reporters that the government had yet to see the details of the ruling.

The concerned ministries and agencies are going to thoroughly examine the content of the judgment and discuss how we will respond to it,” Mr. Suga said.

Analysts said the case appeared to set an important precedent.

Tepco’s argument all along has basically been that everything it did before the accident had been approved by the government, while the government has claimed that Tepco failed to follow guidance,” said Azby Brown, director of the Future Design Institute at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and a volunteer researcher with Safecast, an independent radiation-monitoring group.

This suit seems to have concluded that the evidence shows they share culpability,” he said. “I expect the government and Tepco to appeal, and for this to drag on for years.”

Izutaro Managi, a lawyer representing another class-action lawsuit against the government and Tepco, said that the government had failed in its oversight responsibilities. He said the damages were “not big enough.”

Representatives of groups that have sued the government and Tepco for negligence said they were more interested in the principle of the case than the amount of compensation awarded.

The money is not a problem,” said Koichi Muramatsu, 66, a former resident of Soma City in Fukushima and the secretary of a victims group representing 4,200 plaintiffs in the suit being handled by Mr. Managi. “Even if it’s ¥1,000 or ¥2,000, it’s fine. We just want the government to admit their responsibility. Our ultimate goal is to make the government admit their responsibility and remind them not to repeat the same accident.”

In a statement, Katsumasa Suzuki, the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling significant because it “legally reconfirmed that government regulation was inappropriate.”

But he said he was disappointed by the low total of the damages.

It is largely questionable whether the mental distress the plaintiffs faced was adequately evaluated,” he said.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/world/asia/japan-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-tepco-ruling.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=0&referer=https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FTFE8zlaSpi

March 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Panel holds 1st meeting to examine TEPCO’s meltdown judgment process

The outcome of this Tepco’s investigating Tepco will be for sure just another “We are very sorry” accompanied by three deep bows down the road…

 

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A third party investigative panel set up by Tokyo Electric Power Co. held its first meeting Thursday to examine how the utility reached its conclusion on meltdowns at its Fukushima plant in the 2011 nuclear crisis after the company admitted recently it could have made an judgment sooner than it did.

 

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“Local people in Fukushima are still having a difficult time even five years after the accident,” Yasuhisa Tanaka, a lawyer and chairman of the panel, said ahead of the meeting. He is also former chief justice of the Sendai High Court.

“As it has been pointed out that Tokyo Electric didn’t provide enough information, we have to address various issues including how information should be provided.”

The three-member panel, including two other lawyers, was established after TEPCO said last month it failed to use its internal operation manual that contains criteria for judging core meltdowns after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on March 11, 2011.

TEPCO could have determined that nuclear core meltdowns occurred at the plant three days after the complex was crippled, based on the manual that defines meltdowns as damage to more than 5 percent of a reactor core.

But the utility initially just said reactors cores had been damaged and did not acknowledge the meltdowns until May 2011, even as analysis of the plant’s situation showed some reactors had damage to more than 5 percent of their reactor cores as of March 14 that year.

Early in the crisis, the company said there was no basis to determine reactor core meltdowns.

Later analysis found that the No. 3 unit had damage to 30 percent of its reactor core and that 55 percent of the No. 1 reactor’s core was damaged, both as of March 14, 2011.

TEPCO said in late February this year that it discovered the manual while investigating how it responded to the Fukushima disaster at the request of Niigata Prefecture. The power company aims to restart a nuclear power plant in the prefecture.

Earlier this month, TEPCO President Naomi Hirose offered an apology over the revelation that the company underestimated the severity of the accident at a meeting of the House of Councillors Budget Committee.

“There are various questions such as why (the company) wasn’t able to use the manual and why it took so long to discover it. We hope (the panel) will conduct strict investigations and we will take measures” based on the outcome, Hirose said Thursday prior to the meeting.

TEPCO will disclose the outcome of discussions at the panel as soon as they are concluded.

http://kyodonews.net/news/2016/03/17/53605

 

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Behind the Scenes / Proving negligence in TEPCO case daunting

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On July 31, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution announced its decision that former Tokyo Electric Power Co. Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, and two other former company executives “should be indicted” in connection with the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster.

In this case the “will of the people” has spoken to counter the prosecutor’s decision not to indict, but proving culpable negligence in an accident associated with a natural disaster will be difficult. The prosecution’s designated lawyer is expected to face an uphill battle to convict the three men.

Concrete recognition

“The decision clearly states that [TEPCO] should’ve been able to foresee the onslaught of the tsunami,” said Hiroyuki Kawai, lawyer for the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, at a press conference held in Tokyo following the decision to indict. “The prospects for the trial are bright.”

The inquest committee and the prosecution, however, are far apart over whether the three individuals accused could “foresee” the likelihood of a massive tsunami and the ensuing disaster.

In 2008, TEPCO published the results of preliminary calculations that predicted a maximum credible tsunami of 15.7 meters based on a long-term assessment by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office concluded that establishing “foreseeability” meant more concrete evidence was needed beyond a vague foreboding of danger or anxiety, deemed that TEPCO’s preliminary tsunami reports couldn’t be regarded as having the scholarly persuasiveness necessary and denied foreseeability on the part of the company’s former officers and others.

The inquest committee, made up of 11 members of the public, responded that “it is sufficient that there must be foreseeability given the fact that a tsunami occurred and some sort of response was required.”

The committee stressed that the three individuals accused had a duty to exercise a high degree of care to prevent accidents since they all held positions of responsibility, and that the maximum credible tsunami report “absolutely could not be ignored.”

‘A certain extent’

Nevertheless, a big hurdle must be cleared to prove criminal responsibility for negligence when accidents occur.

“Jurists and the general public look at foreseeability and the duty to exercise care differently,” one veteran judge noted. “Proving foreseeability could be difficult to prove on the basis of preliminary tsunami calculations.”

In the JR Fukuchiyama Line derailment accident in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, three successive presidents of West Japan Railway Co. were subjected to mandatory indictment on a charge of corporate manslaughter.

The inquest committee for the case, which is currently under appeal, said, “Even in the most basic civic sense, stringent safety measures should obviously be taken as quickly as possible.”

Yet at the trial and the first appeal, the court ruled the three were not guilty as the three successive presidents could not have foreseen the accident.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster was caused by a natural phenomenon that would have been difficult to predict, making the charge even more of a challenge to prove.

“The purpose of criminal law is to pursue the responsibility of individuals,” said Tokai University Prof. Yoshihiko Ikeda, who specializes in criminal-negligence theory. “In terms of large-scale accidents related to disasters, senior management can be held responsible for negligence only to a certain extent.”

Choice of words

Now that a decision to indict has been made, the Tokyo District Court chose Friday three designated lawyers for the prosecution who will carry out supplementary investigations. The three accused might be subjected to mandatory indictment by the end of the year at the earliest.

All eyes are on what TEPCO’s former executives will say in court regarding the unprecedented accident.

Lawyer Motoharu Furukawa, a former prosecutor and author of books like “Fukushima gempatsu, sabakarenai de ii no ka” (Is it right to not take the Fukushima nuclear power plant to court?), published by Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc., says: “It’s of great importance that this be delved into publicly in court. It may even lead to a rethinking of nuclear power safety policy.”

Why did a major disaster that led to reactor meltdowns take place? Was there no way the accident could have been prevented?

Aside from the question of criminal responsibility, Katsumata and his associates need to present the full truth in court.

Doubts over system

The mandatory-indictment system was instituted in May 2009 so the “will of the people” would be reflected in judgments over whether or not to indict, judgments that hitherto had been the sole preserve of prosecutors.

While there is praise for the fact that, with this system in mind, prosecutors have become more cautious in deciding not to indict, a string of cases that used mandatory indictment have nevertheless ended in acquittals, exposing certain problems in the system.

First of all, the mandatory indictment system provides no opportunity for those under inquest to present their side of the story.

The Law for the Inquest of Prosecution makes it mandatory for a prosecutor to present the case prior to any decision to indict, but the accused forced into a public trial through a mandatory indictment has no opportunity to contest the charges beforehand.

“Would it not be a good idea to consider hearing the side of those under indictment, even if just to maintain the fairness of the inquest?” said Yasuyuki Takai, a lawyer who was involved in designing the system.

Then there’s the fact that the role of “inquest assistant,” which gives legal advice to the inquest committee, is limited to a single individual. A lawyer is appointed as inquest assistant, who responds to queries from the committee members.

Yukio Yamashita, a lawyer who has experience as an inquest assistant, pointed out that for a single individual “explaining legal arguments to the general public is difficult.”

“For a truly adequate inquest multiple assistants would be necessary,” Yamashita said.

Another problematic point is how the designated lawyer bears an excessive burden.

Proving guilt in a case where the prosecution has chosen not to indict is difficult — the maximum compensation paid to a designated lawyer for a single trial or appeal is ¥1.2 million.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations is said to be planning to submit an opinion calling for improvements to the mandatory-indictment system this year to the Supreme Court and the Justice Ministry.

The system must be revised if it is to live up to its original goal, it seems.

Source: Yomiuri

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002338557

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment