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Former Tepco executives ordered to pay $95 billion in damages over Fukushima nuclear disaster

The ruling, in a civil case brought by Tepco shareholders, marks the first time a court has found former executives responsible for the nuclear disaster, local media reports said.

Tanks storing treated radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March.

The Tokyo district court on Wednesday ordered four former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) to pay 13 trillion yen ($95 billion) in damages to the operator of the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, national broadcaster NHK reported.

The ruling, in a civil case brought by Tepco shareholders, marks the first time a court has found former executives responsible for the nuclear disaster, local media reports said.

The court judged that the executives could have prevented the disaster if they had exercised due care, the reports said.

A Tepco spokesperson declined to comment on the ruling.

“We understand that a ruling on the matter was handed down today, but we will refrain from answering questions on individual court cases,” the spokesperson said.

The ruling marks a departure from a criminal trial ruling in 2019, where the Tokyo district court found three Tepco executives not guilty of professional negligence, judging that they could not have foreseen the huge tsunami that struck the nuclear power plant.

The criminal case has been appealed and the Tokyo high court is expected to rule on the case next year.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power disaster, triggered by a tsunami that hit the east coast of Japan in March 2011, was one of the world’s worst and generated massive clean-up, compensation and decommissioning costs for Tepco.

The civil lawsuit, brought by Tepco shareholders in 2012, demanded that five former Tepco executives pay the beleaguered company 22 trillion yen in compensation for ignoring warnings of a possible tsunami.


July 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-TEPCO execs found liable for damages over Fukushima nuclear crisis

Lawyers of plaintiffs and others hold up signs saying “victory for shareholders” (R) and the like outside Tokyo District Court on July 13, 2022, after the court ordered former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay the utility some 13 trillion yen ($95 billion) in total damages for failing to prevent the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. (Kyodo)

July 13, 2022

A Tokyo court on Wednesday ordered former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay the utility some 13 trillion yen ($95 billion) in total damages for failing to prevent the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The ruling in favor of shareholders who filed the lawsuit in 2012 is the first to find former TEPCO executives liable for compensation after the nuclear plant in northeastern Japan caused one of the worst nuclear disasters in history triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The Tokyo District Court’s Presiding Judge Yoshihide Asakura said the utility’s countermeasures for the tsunami “fundamentally lacked safety awareness and a sense of responsibility,” ruling that the executives failed to perform their duties.

If tsunami resilience work had been conducted to prevent flooding of main structures, TEPCO could have prevented the disaster, in which power was lost and reactor cooling functions were crippled, causing reactor meltdowns, according to the ruling.

Among five defendants — former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, former President Masataka Shimizu and former Managing Director Akio Komori — the court found all but Komori liable to pay the damages.

“It’s a historic verdict that deserves lasting praise,” Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer representing the shareholders, said in a press conference. “It showed company executives have such a heavy responsibility and could even be held liable for damages if an accident occurs.”

The damages of over 13 trillion yen are likely be the largest ever in a civil lawsuit in Japan, though it would be realistically difficult for the company to collect them from the former executives.

Nearly 50 shareholders had sought a total of around 22 trillion yen ($160 billion) in damages.

TEPCO declined to comment on the ruling, saying it will refrain from responding to matters related to individual lawsuits.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno reiterated the government’s policy to continue to use nuclear energy despite the disaster, saying, “We will make safety our top priority and make utmost efforts to resolve the Japanese people’s concerns.”

The focal point of the trial was whether the management’s decisions on tsunami countermeasures were appropriate after a TEPCO unit estimated in 2008 that a tsunami of up to 15.7 meters could hit the plant based on the government’s long-term earthquake assessment made public in 2002.

The shareholders said the government’s evaluation was the “best scientific assessment,” but the management postponed taking preventive steps, such as installing a seawall.

The former executives’ lawyers said the assessment lacked reliability and the accident occurred when the management was asking a civil engineering association to study whether the utility should incorporate the evaluation into its countermeasures.

The court judged that the government’s assessment was reliable enough to oblige the company to take measures against tsunami. “It is extremely irrational and unforgivable” to put off a decision to act on the government study, the ruling said.

In a criminal trial in 2019, defendants were acquitted on the grounds they could not foresee a giant tsunami triggering a nuclear disaster.

Yukie Yoshida, 46, who was forced to evacuate her home near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, said, “My life won’t change even if the damages are paid to TEPCO,” adding, “I just want to go back to my home as soon as possible.”

More than 15,000 people lost their lives after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami caused widespread damage in the country’s northeast and triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear complex.

Some 38,000 people still remain displaced as of March due mainly to the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

There is still a no-go zone near the Fukushima plant where decommissioning work is scheduled to continue until sometime between 2041 and 2051.

July 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Court orders former TEPCO managers to pay damages for Fukushima plant losses

July 13, 2022

A Tokyo court has ruled that former managers of Tokyo Electric Power Company must pay damages to the utility, as demanded by its shareholders.

The shareholders claimed the company incurred massive losses from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

They include costs for decommissioning the plant’s crippled reactors and compensation for local residents who had to evacuate.

The shareholders demanded 22 trillion yen, or more than 160 billion dollars, from five individuals who held managerial posts.

On Wednesday, the Tokyo District Court ordered four of them to pay a total of 13.3 trillion yen, or about 97 billion dollars.

The trial focused on the reliability of a long-term assessment of possible seismic activities issued by a government panel in 2002, nine years prior to the accident.

The shareholders claimed the assessment was reliable, and that the managers should have done more to safeguard the plant against a huge tsunami that they knew would come.

The former managers, on the other hand, claimed the assessment had low credibility, so they could not foresee damage from a massive tsunami.

They argued that even if they did, they would not have had time to take necessary preventive measures.

The shareholders filed their lawsuit in 2012. In October last year, the presiding judge inspected the plant compound for the first time.

July 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo High Court rules state not liable in 2011 nuclear accident

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

January 22, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High court denies government responsibility for Fukushima nuclear crisis

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

January 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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