Japan court: TEPCO execs not guilty in Fukushima disaster

Japan court: TEPCO execs not guilty in Fukushima disaster
Japan court: TEPCO execs not guilty in Fukushima disaster

A Japanese court ruled Thursday that three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company were not guilty of professional negligence in the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant because ensuring absolute safety at nuclear plants was not a government requirement at that time.

The ruling by the Tokyo District Court ended the only criminal trial related to the nuclear accident that has kept tens of thousands of residents away from their homes because of lingering radiation contamination.

Lawyers representing the 5,700 Fukushima residents who filed the criminal complaint said they will push prosecutors to appeal the decision. A group of supporters stood outside the court Thursday with placards reading “Unjust ruling.”

The court said ex-TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and two other former executives were also not guilty of causing the deaths of 44 elderly patients whose health deteriorated during or after forced evacuations from a local hospital and a nursing home.

The executives were accused of failing to anticipate the massive tsunami that struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant on March 11, 2011, following a magnitude 9 earthquake, and of failing to take measures that might have protected the plant.

Katsumata and co-defendants Sakae Muto, 69, and Ichiro Takekuro, 73, pleaded not guilty at the trial’s opening session in June 2017. They said predicting the tsunami was impossible.

Three of the plant’s reactors had meltdowns, spreading radiation into surrounding communities and into the sea.

Prosecutors in December requested five-year prison sentences for each executive, accusing them of not doing enough to guard against the threat of a large tsunami despite knowing the risk.

In its ruling, the court said the defendants held responsible positions at TEPCO, but that did not necessarily mean they were responsible for taking measures beyond those in the legal regulatory framework.

It said there is no proof they could have foreseen that a tsunami could flood the plant the way it did in 2011.

TEPCO officials were aware of a need to improve tsunami prevention measures and were considering taking steps by 2008 and 2009, but those steps were in line with government safety standards at the time.

The prosecutors argued that TEPCO could have prevented the disaster had it halted the plant to install safety measures before the tsunami. But the court said the company’s responsibility to supply electricity to the public meant that idling the plant would have had a “social impact,” and that possible measures were likely not ready in time.

 

The acquittal disappointed dozens of Fukushima residents and their supporters who attended the ruling.A Japanese court ruled Thursday that three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company were not guilty of professional negligence in the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant because ensuring absolute safety at nuclear plants was not a government requirement at that time.

The ruling by the Tokyo District Court ended the only criminal trial related to the nuclear accident that has kept tens of thousands of residents away from their homes because of lingering radiation contamination.

Lawyers representing the 5,700 Fukushima residents who filed the criminal complaint said they will push prosecutors to appeal the decision. A group of supporters stood outside the court Thursday with placards reading “Unjust ruling.”

The court said ex-TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and two other former executives were also not guilty of causing the deaths of 44 elderly patients whose health deteriorated during or after forced evacuations from a local hospital and a nursing home.

The executives were accused of failing to anticipate the massive tsunami that struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant on March 11, 2011, following a magnitude 9 earthquake, and of failing to take measures that might have protected the plant.

Katsumata and co-defendants Sakae Muto, 69, and Ichiro Takekuro, 73, pleaded not guilty at the trial’s opening session in June 2017. They said predicting the tsunami was impossible.

Three of the plant’s reactors had meltdowns, spreading radiation into surrounding communities and into the sea.

Prosecutors in December requested five-year prison sentences for each executive, accusing them of not doing enough to guard against the threat of a large tsunami despite knowing the risk.

In its ruling, the court said the defendants held responsible positions at TEPCO, but that did not necessarily mean they were responsible for taking measures beyond those in the legal regulatory framework.

It said there is no proof they could have foreseen that a tsunami could flood the plant the way it did in 2011.

TEPCO officials were aware of a need to improve tsunami prevention measures and were considering taking steps by 2008 and 2009, but those steps were in line with government safety standards at the time.

The prosecutors argued that TEPCO could have prevented the disaster had it halted the plant to install safety measures before the tsunami. But the court said the company’s responsibility to supply electricity to the public meant that idling the plant would have had a “social impact,” and that possible measures were likely not ready in time.

The acquittal disappointed dozens of Fukushima residents and their supporters who attended the ruling.

ID: 50019448

Published on: Tuesday, September 17, 2019 07:30 PM

Source: https://www.eenews.net/greenwire/2019/09/19/stories/1061138837

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