Seismologist testifies Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable — The Mainichi

” TOKYO — A seismologist has testified during the trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant, that the nuclear crisis could have been prevented if proper countermeasures had been taken.

“If proper steps had been taken based on a long-term (tsunami) evaluation, the nuclear accident wouldn’t have occurred,” Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, told the Tokyo District Court on May 9.

Shimazaki, who played a leading role in working out the national government’s long-term evaluation, appeared at the 11th hearing of the three former TEPCO executives as a witness.

Prosecutors had initially not indicted the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel consisting of members of the public deemed twice that the three deserve prosecution, court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors indicted the three under the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.

Court-appointed attorneys insist that former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto, 67, and others postponed implementing tsunami countermeasures based on the long-term evaluation, leading to the disaster.

The government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion released its long-term evaluation in 2002 predicting that a massive tsunami could occur along the Japan Trench including the area off Fukushima.

In 2008, TEPCO estimated that a tsunami up to 15.7 meters high could hit the Fukushima No. 1 power station, but failed to reflect the prediction in its tsunami countermeasures at the power station.

The Cabinet Office’s Central Disaster Prevention Council also did not adopt the long-term evaluation in working out its disaster prevention plan.

Shimazaki, who was a member of the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion’s earthquake research panel in 2002, told the court that the Cabinet Office pressured the panel shortly before the announcement of the long-term evaluation to state that the assessment is unreliable. The headquarters ended up reporting in the long-term evaluation’s introduction that there were problems with the assessment’s reliability and accuracy.

In his testimony, Shimazaki pointed out that the Central Disaster Prevention Council decision not to adopt the long-term evaluation led to inappropriate tsunami countermeasures.

With regard to factors behind the council’s refusal to accept the evaluation, Shimazaki stated that he can only think of consideration shown to those involved in the nuclear power industry and politics.

“If countermeasures had been in place based on the long-term evaluation, many lives would’ve been saved,” Shimazaki told the court.

Shimazaki served as deputy chairman of the government’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

(Japanese original by Epo Ishiyama, City News Department, and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department) “

published in The Mainichi

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Former TEPCO executives to be tried for Fukushima negligence

Three former TEPCO executives — Tsunehisa Katsumata (ex-chairman), Ichiro Takekuro (ex-vice president) and Sakae Muto (ex-vice president) — are being tried in the Tokyo District Court starting June 30 for criminal negligence for failing to take certain safety measures that may have prevented the triple meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1.

More background information is available in this New York Times article.

Japan lawyer wants no-nukes after Fukushima — The Associated Press via Phys.org

” Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai stands out in Japan, a nation dominated by somber dark suits: When not in a courtroom, he often wears colorful shirts and crystal-covered animal pins. He is a Noh dancer, a tenor and, of late, a filmmaker. His ride is a Harley.

Some of it is just for fun, but much of the flamboyance is meant to draw attention to his cause: shutting down all nuclear plants in Japan. His more than two-decade-long legal battle is gaining momentum after the multiple meltdowns in Fukushima five years ago led to all plants being idled for safety checks.

In March, Kawai helped set up an organization to support Fukushima residents whose children have developed thyroid cancer since the 2011 disaster—166 among 380,000 people 18 years and under who were tested, including suspected cases. That’s up to 50 times higher than on average, according to Toshihide Tsuda, a professor at Okayama University.

The Japanese government denies any link, saying the increase reflects more rigorous screening. Thyroid cancer, rare among children at two or three in a million, soared after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Also last month, Kawai’s won a court injunction to stop two nuclear reactors in western Japan that had recently restarted. The district court cited concerns about safety, emergency planning and environmental contamination. One of the reactors was shut down shortly after its restart because of glitches. Both had met stricter standards upgraded after the 2011 disaster.

Kawai’s team is pursuing damage compensation for those evacuated from Fukushima, and criminal charges against former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant. His ultimate goal is to banish nuclear power.

“If another nuclear accident ever happens in Japan, everything will be destroyed—turning upside down our politics, our economy, our education, our culture, our love, our law,” Kawai told The Associated Press, sitting at a desk overflowing with files and papers in his Tokyo office.

Born in 1944 in Manchuria, northeastern China, Kawaii has built a reputation as a champion of humanitarian causes, helping out Japanese abandoned as children in China after World War II, and Filipinos of Japanese descent in the Philippines. His compassion is driven partly by his own experience: A baby brother died of starvation during his family’s perilous journey back to Japan.

After graduating from prestigious Tokyo University, Kawai represented major corporations as a lawyer during the “bubble era” of the 1980s. In the mid-1990s he began taking on lawsuits against nuclear power.

Until 2011, he was fighting a losing battle.

To win over regular people after the Fukushima accident Kawai started making movies, which are sometimes entered as evidence for his court cases. In “Nuclear Japan,” he points out how precariously quake- and tsunami-prone Japan is, and how densely populated. He interviews scientists, former Fukushima residents, a fire fighter who could not go back to save lives because of radiation.

“Imagine remembering this film in an evacuation center after the next nuclear disaster,” Kawai narrates in the movie.

Since Japan imports almost all its energy, many in government and business view nuclear power as the cheapest option, and the best way to curb pollution and counter global warming.

Kawai’s stance angers many in the powerful business community. Hiroshi Sato, a senior adviser at Kobe Steel, lambasted Kawai’s position as “emotional” and “unscientific.”

“What I’m really worried about is the idea of similar lawsuits being filed one after another. That would lead to uncertainty about a stable electricity supply,” he told reporters recently.

Even those who insist nuclear power is safe—including top government regulator Shunichi Tanaka and Gerry Thomas, a professor at the Imperial College of London who advises Japan—say the choice of whether to keep or abandon nuclear energy should be left to the Japanese people.

Kawai believes policy shifts, like the turn against nuclear in Germany, begin in the courtroom.

“For 50 years, Japan had a campaign that we need nuclear power, and how it is reliable and safe, and 99 percent of Japanese believed this,” he said.

“But we thought we could finally win, and about 300 lawyers came together to start a new fight against nuclear power,” he said with a zeal making him appear younger than his 71 years.

Financially independent thanks to his corporate law days, Kawai invested 35 million yen ($350,000) in his first movie, which turned a profit from screenings and DVD sales. He is now working on his third film.

“I think he is fantastic,” said Yurika Ayukawa, a professor of policy at Chiba University of Commerce. She attended at a recent screening where Kawai spoke and surprised the crowd by breaking into a song on Iitate, one of rural Fukushima’s most radiated areas.

Radiation is a sensitive issue in Japan, the only country to suffer atomic bomb attacks, and the Fukushima thyroid cancer patients and their families mostly have kept silent, fearing a social backlash. They face pressure from the hospital treating their children not to speak to media or to question the official view that the illnesses are unrelated to radiation.

Two of the patients’ families appeared recently with Kawai before reporters, although in a video-call with their faces not shown. They said they felt doubtful, afraid and isolated. Kawai believes they are entitled to compensation, though they have not yet filed a lawsuit.

George Fujita, an attorney who specializes in environmental issues, says Kawai is Japan’s top lawyer on nuclear lawsuits. … ”

by Yuri Kageyama And Mari Yamaguchi

read full article

Three ex-Tepco executives to be indicted over Fukushima nuclear disaster — The Japan Times

” Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will be indicted Monday for the allegedly failing to take measures to prevent the tsunami-triggered disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, 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 originally decided not to indict the men 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.

Sources close to the matter said the three will be indicted but would not be taken into custody.

But the trial is unlikely to start by the end of the year, as preparations, such as collecting and sorting out evidence and other issues require time, they said.

At the six-reactor plant on the Pacific coast, a tsunami triggered by the massive earthquake on March 11, 2011, flooded power supply facilities, crippling the cooling systems of some of the reactors. This led to core meltdowns in reactor Nos. 1 to 3, and masive hydrogen explosions that blew the roofs of the buildings housing units 1, 3 and 4 sky high.

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

The committee also said the three were responsible for the injuries that occurred to 13 people from the hydrogen explosions, including Self-Defense Forces members, and the death of 44 hospital patients who evacuated amid harsh conditions.

A group of citizens in Fukushima and elsewhere filed a criminal complaint in 2012 against dozens of government and Tepco officials over their responsibility in connection with what became the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

But as prosecutors decided not to file charges against 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. ”

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Group to monitor trial of former Tepco executives to clarify truth about Fukushima disaster — The Asahi Shimbun

” Lawyers, journalists and scientists will form a group to help expose the truth and spread details about the Fukushima nuclear disaster during the criminal trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

“We will encourage the court to hold a fair trial while transmitting information regarding the trial across the nation,” said an official of the planned organization, whose name is translated as “support group for the criminal procedure on the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”

Tsunehisa Katsumata, former chairman of TEPCO, the operator of the crippled plant, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, face mandatory charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

Although the trial is still months away, 33 people are now setting up the group, including Ruiko Muto, who heads an organization pursuing the criminal responsibility of TEPCO and government officials for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tetsuji Imanaka, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, and Norma Field, a professor emeritus of East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, have also joined.

Three reactors melted down at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011. A number of hospital patients died in the chaotic evacuation.

About 14,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO executives, government officials and scientists in 2012, saying they were aware of the dangers to the Fukushima nuclear plant from a tsunami, but they failed in their responsibility to take proper countermeasures.

Tokyo prosecutors twice decided not to indict the three former TEPCO executives. However, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, a panel of citizens, decided to forcibly indict the three in July last year.

“It has been almost five years since the disaster, but many details, including their foreseeability of the tsunami, remain unclear,” said science writer Takashi Soeda, one of the group’s co-founders. “As TEPCO has not unveiled a sufficient amount of information even in inquiries conducted by the Diet and the government or in civil lawsuits, the truth must be uncovered through the legal force of a criminal trial.”

Five lawyers appointed by the Tokyo District Court will act as prosecutors in the trial.

Legal experts expect the lawyers will indict the former TEPCO executives and release a statement naming the victims around March 11, the fifth anniversary of the triple disaster that still haunts the Tohoku region. ”

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Who’s responsible for the Fukushima disaster? — column by The Japan Times

” The International Atomic Energy Agency released its comprehensive — but mostly ignored — final report on Fukushima on Aug. 30.

It blamed the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant on a blind belief in “the nuclear safety myth.” In other words, the myth that Japan’s “nuclear power plants were so safe that an accident of this magnitude was simply unthinkable.”

“The regulation of nuclear safety in Japan at the time of the accident was performed by a number of organizations with different roles and responsibilities and complex interrelationships,” the report said. “It was not fully clear which organizations had the responsibility and authority to issue binding instructions on how to respond to safety issues without delay. The regulations, guidelines and procedures in place at the time of the accident were not fully in line with international practice in some key areas, most notably in relation to periodic safety reviews, re-evaluation of hazards, severe accident management and safety culture.”

I’m sure we all remember the “unforeseeable” accident that happened in Fukushima in March 2011, an accident that will take an estimated 40 years and billions of dollars to clean up, some of it already subsidized with taxpayer money and higher electric bills.

Having restarted a reactor at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima in August, one might suspect that the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Kyushu Electric Power Co. don’t appear to remember this accident very well.

For a start, putting the reactor in Kagoshima back online didn’t exactly go according to plan. Despite months of inspection, seawater was detected in the reactor’s cooling system in late August. Alarm bells sounded.

In spite of all the checks and balances that were introduced in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, power utilities are continuing to drop the ball as far as their reactors are concerned. How can we ensure such oversight is avoided?

Katsunoba Onda, author of “Tepco: The Darkness of the Empire,” which predicted in 2007 the nuclear accident at Fukushima, and lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, who established the National Network of Counsels in Cases against Nuclear Power Plants, have proposed a very simple way of ensuring this happens: hold nuclear plant operators criminally liable for negligence. The threat of incarceration might help them take their work more seriously and less likely to cut corners.

The Prosecutorial Review Board appears to back such a proposal, approving the first criminal prosecutions of three former Tepco executives last July. The board consists of a panel of 11 private citizens, who operate under a rarely used set-up in the Japanese legal system that allows outsiders to review prosecutors’ decisions.

The panel ordered that Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tepco at the time of the accident, and two former heads of the utility’s nuclear division, be charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

Prosecutors, however, have to date been slow to pursue criminal liability in the case. They did accept submissions from the public but then leaked their decision not to prosecute just as Japan won the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games. The story, however, doesn’t end there.

This decision was again sent to the Prosecutorial Review Board, which again recommended that a criminal case be filed. For the second year in succession, the Prosecutorial Review Board overruled the prosecutors.

Prosecutors have reportedly continued to reject the case because “it is not possible to prove negligence.”

The IAEA report is expected to be submitted as evidence showing the exact opposite.

“When you have a disaster of this scale, isn’t it crazy not to pursue responsibility?” Kawai, who led the citizen’s group that filed charges with the prosecutors, told Nikkan Gendai. “The common sense of the people overturned the judgment of prosecutors, prosecutors who favor large companies and the powerful. Tepco knew about the possibility of a large-scale tsunami and did nothing about it. The idea that if it’s not easily foreseeable, no one is responsible is mistaken. Abe says ‘Japan has the safest nuclear standards in the world.’ He’s the only one saying it. It’s not true. The Abe administration’s push for war and for nuclear energy are very dangerous — one mistake and this country will be destroyed.”

If the Tepco executives are tried in court and found guilty, it wouldn’t be the first time nuclear power operators were convicted of criminal negligence resulting in death. In 1999, two employees died in an accident at the Tokaimura power plant run by JCO, a nuclear fuel cycle company. Six of the company’s executives were later charged and pleaded guilty to criminal charges of negligence resulting in the deaths.

They were all given suspended sentences. ”

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