Executives In Fukushima nuclear disaster deserve 5-year prison terms, prosecutors say — NPR

” The former chairman and two vice presidents of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. should spend five years in prison over the 2011 flooding and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japanese prosecutors say, accusing the executives of failing to prevent a foreseeable catastrophe.

Prosecutors say the TEPCO executives didn’t do enough to protect the nuclear plant, despite being told in 2002 that the Fukushima facility was vulnerable to a tsunami. In March of 2011, it suffered meltdowns at three of its reactors, along with powerful hydrogen explosions.

“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” prosecutors said on Wednesday, according to The Asahi Shimbun. “That led to the deaths of many people.”

Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78; former Vice President Ichiro Takekuro, 72; and former Vice President Sakae Muto, 68, face charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury. Muto and Takekuro once led the utility’s nuclear division. All three have pleaded not guilty in Tokyo District Court, saying they could not have predicted the tsunami.

The stricken plant triggered mandatory evacuations for thousands of people. Prosecutors link 44 deaths to the incident, including a number of hospital patients who were forced to leave their facilities.

The sentencing recommendation came as prosecutors made their closing arguments on WedneTsday, more than two years after the executives were initially indicted.

The next step in the case will see a lawyer for victims and their families speak in court on Thursday. But it won’t be until March of 2019 that defense lawyers will deliver their closing arguments, according to Japan’s NHK News.

Hinting at what the defense’s argument might be, NHK cites the prosecutors saying, “the former executives later claimed that they had not been informed, and that the executives put all the blame on their subordinates.”

The case has taken a twisting journey to arrive at this point. In two instances, public prosecutors opted not to seek indictments against the three TEPCO executives. But an independent citizen’s panel disagreed, and in early 2016, prosecutors in the case — all court-appointed lawyers — secured indictments against the three former TEPCO leaders.

Both TEPCO and the Japanese government lost a class-action lawsuit in late 2017, when a court found that officials had not prepared enough for potential disaster at the Fukushima power plant. In that case, the Fukushima district court ordered payments totaling nearly $4.5 million to about 3,800 plaintiffs.

All told, around 19,000 people are estimated to have died in eastern Japan’s triple disaster that included a powerful earthquake off the coast of Tohoku, a devastating tsunami, and the worst nuclear meltdown since the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986.

In September, Japan’s government announced the first death due to radiation that was released at the Fukushima plant.

The region is still sharply feeling the results of the calamity. As of late November, more than 30,000 people who fled the area had still not returned, Kyodo News reports. ”

by Bill Chappell, NPR

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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.

Mother of bullied Fukushima evacuee reveals details of abuse to court — The Mainichi

” The mother of a student who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture to Tokyo in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster disclosed to the Tokyo District Court on Jan. 11 that the student had been bullied from elementary school and was told “you’ll probably die from leukemia soon.”

The mother was testifying as part of a damages lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the central government by about 50 plaintiffs including victims who voluntarily relocated to Tokyo after the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

“My child was bullied for simply being an evacuee, and not being able to publicly say we are evacuees has caused psychological trauma,” the mother said.

The mother testified that directly after transferring to a public elementary school in Chiyoda Ward following the disaster, her child was bullied by a male classmate who said, “You came from Fukushima so you’ll probably die from leukemia soon.” She said that the teacher, while joking, also added, “You will probably die by the time you’re in middle school.” She also asserted that a classmate pushed her child down the stairs after saying, “You’re going to die anyway, so what’s the difference?”

After moving on to junior high school, the student was reportedly forced by classmates to pay for around 10,000 yen worth of sweets and snacks. This bullying case is currently being investigated by a Chiyoda Ward Board of Education third-party committee. “

by The Mainichi

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Fukushima reactor makers not liable: Japan court — Channel NewsAsia

” TOKYO: A Japanese court on Wednesday (Jul 13) turned down a class action lawsuit seeking damages from nuclear plant makers Toshiba, Hitachi and GE over the Fukushima meltdown disaster, the plaintiffs, one of the companies and a report said.

About 3,800 claimants in the suit, hailing from Japan and 32 other countries including the United States, Germany and South Korea, had sought largely symbolic compensation from the nuclear power plant manufacturers.

Under Japanese liability law, nuclear plant providers are usually exempt from damage claims in the event of an accident, leaving operators to face legal action.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, however, had argued that that violated constitutional protections on the pursuit of happy, wholesome and cultured livelihoods.

But the Tokyo District Court ruled that the law “is not unconstitutional”, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs.

“We knew it was difficult to win under the current legal system in Japan, but it’s clearly wrong that nuclear (plant) manufacturers don’t have to bear any responsibility for an accident,” Masao Imaizumi, 73, one of plaintiffs, told AFP.

“If they are spared responsibility, it could lead to disregard for product quality,” he said, adding that the plaintiffs will appeal.

Toshiba welcomed the decision. “The company recognises the verdict as an appropriate ruling handed out by the court,” it said in a statement.

Hitachi and GE’s Japan office could not be reached for comment. Japan’s Jiji Press also reported that the suit was rejected.

The suit – which sought just ¥100 (96 US cents) per claimant – was the first to be brought against nuclear power-plant suppliers over the accident, Akihiro Shima, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said previously.

The suit was first filed in January 2014 with just over 1,000 claimants, but more joined which saw the number nearly quadruple.

The plaintiffs had alleged that the companies failed to make necessary safety updates to the Fukushima reactors, swamped on Mar 11, 2011 by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake-sparked tsunami that lead to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Embattled plant operator Tokyo Electric Power is already facing massive lawsuits and compensation costs. ”

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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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Defamation suit against Abe over Fukushima crisis thrown out: Court — Channel NewsAsia

” TOKYO: A Japanese court on Thursday threw out a defamation suit against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by former premier Naoto Kan, who complained Abe published false claims about Kan’s handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Kan, prime minister at the time of the 2011 disaster, accused Abe of publishing untrue allegations that Kan had ordered plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) to stop pouring seawater onto overheating reactors to cool them and prevent a catastrophe.

The former premier sued Abe, an opposition lawmaker at the time of the crisis, for defamation in 2013.

Kan’s suit alleged that Abe made the claims in his e-magazine two months after the nuclear accident.

The March 11, 2011, quake-tsunami disaster triggered a meltdown at the nuclear power plant, the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl.

Kan, who resigned as prime minister later in 2011, had demanded that Abe apologise and pay ¥11 million (US$89,000) in damages.

A spokesman at the Tokyo District Court told AFP Thursday the lawsuit was “dismissed”, but declined to elaborate further.

In his ruling, presiding judge Norio Nagaya said that what Abe wrote was “within the arena of opinion and commentary”, according to Jiji Press.

Kan faced significant criticism at the time of the accident over his clumsy handling of the crisis, but did not issue such an order to TEPCO.

In the chaos immediately after the crisis, TEPCO executives — not Kan — told the head of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to stop using seawater to cool the overheating reactors.

But former Fukushima plant manager, Masao Yoshida, ignored the order and secretly kept cooling the reactors, widely seen as averting a potential catastrophe.

Abe hailed the court’s decision, calling it “a victory of truth” on his Facebook page.

Kan did not issue an immediate comment on the ruling. ”

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