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3 former TEPCO execs to face criminal charges in nuclear crisis

44 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

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The original site of Fukushima Daiichi was a cliff that was 35 meters above sea level safely above tsunami danger, but it was lowered to 10 meters above sea level during construction in the late 1960s. The height of the cliff was reduced by 25 meters in a move to cut costs of ferrying equipment to the site and pumping seawater to the reactors.

If not for that "penny wise, pound foolish" move, Fukushima Daiichi would have been safe from the tsunami.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303982504576425312941820794

Tepco gets the blame for this, which it should, but there is also plenty of blame to go around to the contractor, Kajima; the designer/builder/supplier of the reactor, GE; and they many other prime subcontractors and government agencies that are flying under the radar.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, who was chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. at the time of the crisis, along with then-vice presidents Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69. Bet these greedy old guys wished they should have retired put them in jail where they can rot, I for one don't care if they are old as their greed put them in the positions they are in now.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Too little, too late!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Kazuaki Shimazaki: "...and however much you may sympathize with Fukushima residences sets a HORRIBLE precedent."

What? that they can't get away with it no matter how much time passes or how high on the Japan Inc. ladder they are? Yeah... pretty horrible precedent. Imagine if people were charged for their crimes after YEARS had passed and when they only way they are going to face any charges in a nation where the government not only lets them get away with it but literally invests in them further is to have such civil suits and keep the issues, and the fault, at the forefront instead of under the carpet.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

"TEPCO has said it could have taken safety measures more proactively, but that a tsunami of the magnitude that crippled the plant could not be anticipated."

Yes, it could have, plain and simple. They had been warned many times, even shortly before the disaster (and in 'meetings they forgot to take minutes for' they claim they warned THEMSELVES three days prior to the disasters!). They CHOSE to ignore the warnings and the fact that such waves have hit Japan, and that area, before.

But this is Japan. The absolute worst thing they will get is a suspended sentence, and I doubt it will even get that far.

3 ( +7 / -5 )

The whole situation regarding the disaster and the after mat of it is really shocking! I'm surprised no one has been trialed and jailed yet.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Wasn't the whole back up electrical system below the reactor, instead of being safely in a higher position above the plant and away from any pending disaster. Now if that isn't negligence waiting for a disaster to happen, please explain to me your interpretation of negligence.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A lot of people don't know this, but Katsumata basically lost control of the situation immediately after the meltdown. The plant workers fled, despite him telling the press they were 'ordered to leave'. It was Kan who got him into his office at 4am the following day & ordered him to get the situation under control. Think about it, the president of Japan's largest energy company was prepared to let the plant implode.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Nothing will come of this. It is a decision from a citizen's judicial committee, and they are the only ones who have been treating the accident as a criminal issue. The people actually in charge are quite happy to treat it as an industry wide failure and not a company specific issue, for obvious commercial reasons. And they will make sure that this does not proceed much further.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Who wants to bet that by the time this ever gets to an actual trial the guys will either be dead from old age or "something" will happen that delay or stop the process?

1 ( +2 / -2 )

Really? I would wait in line for that trail if it ever happens.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Expect a lot of bowing, "sincere" apologies, and maybe even a compensatory suicide.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Probably we'll see some suspended sentences here.

Shocking risk management having the plant where it was. Yes, nobody could have foreseen what happened, however even if a tsunami of that magnitude was to hit every 300-400 years, the level of risk involved with having a nuclear power plant where it was is just simply too high.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

JapanGal,

It is real estate people at fault. There are engraved stone markers all over the coasts of Japan warning people not to build below the markers.

That actually isn't the case, though the media would have you believe it, through their poor reporting.

The tsunami markers are on the Sanriku Coast - northern Miyagi and Iwate. That coastline has sharp, high inlets which are perfect for focussing tsunamis - leading to very high tsunamis which hit those communities hard.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Farmboy,

"Many nuclear plants are capable of being run out to the 60 year mark, and probably further."

No, they aren't.

In your opinion.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Star-viking,

Many nuclear plants are capable of being run out to the 60 year mark, and probably further.

It's the word "probably" in this sentence that bugs me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They are all over 60, but got the golden parachute retirement plan

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That ship has sailed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Time and age is not a factor, as some posters seems to be suggesting. This is an issue of justice and responsibility. If they are really innocent, let them prove it in a public and legal forum. If they are indeed negligent, then they will be shamed even further and any kind of punishment is a precedent that corporate executives are not above the law and cannot hide behind corporate bureaucracy.

Since the regulators also failed in their watch, they should also be brought to account or there can be no public trust in those we pay to represent and protect the citizenry.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Three reactors had meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, triggering massive radiation leaks that forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate."

refs: https://www.nsr.go.jp/archive/nisa/english/press/2012/06/en20120615-1-1.pdf

https://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/05/fukushima-valve-failures-led-t.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-g8wSucvpA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwoOePfx-ww

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem really lies with those power seeking humans that have a need for the absolutely massive quantities of energy that only splitting the 'mighty atom' can provide. Not only do those at the top of the nuclear industry deny the dangers of nuclear power, but so do those at the head of government and many multinationals that are motivated by having massive amounts of centrally controlled power to satisfy their own egotistical needs. Tepco executrives should be prosecuted for their blatent failure of duty of care to their employees and the wider public. But the original project main contractor and the regulator both failed in their duty of care to properly assess the risks to staff and the public from all low frequency events that can overwhelm all the plants systems of defence in depth.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is real estate people at fault. There are engraved stone markers all over the coasts of Japan warning people not to build below the markers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm sorry, but Japan is a nation where large Tsunamis and devastating earthquakes are an accepted part of life

Why do you think this? Besides the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, pray tell when is the last time (without using google) that you KNOW there was a major tsunami in Japan?

Tsunamis and earthquakes are not an "accepted" part of life in Japan. People are aware that they happen yet it isnt like everyone "knows" or easily accepts them.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

We currently have people who are currently in charge who are trying to restart 40 year old reactors that were designed to last 30 years. This seems problematic as well, and indicates a culture in which people are willing to sacrifice safety for cost. As for the former executives, I have no idea if any of them were the ones responsible for causing the reactors not to shut down properly or otherwise worsening the problem. That will hopefully come out at the trial.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yubaru,

Tsunamis and earthquakes are not an "accepted" part of life in Japan. People are aware that they happen yet it isnt like everyone "knows" or easily accepts them.

Yes, everyone is being wise after the fact. That prior tsunami in the first millenium AD which preceded the 2011 one - taught as half-myth in schools. In a local university the geology department had the 2010 earthquake hazard map up - nothing big off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku.

Farmboy,

We currently have people who are currently in charge who are trying to restart 40 year old reactors that were designed to last 30 years. This seems problematic as well, and indicates a culture in which people are willing to sacrifice safety for cost.

Really? Designed to last 30 years? You think nuclear engineering in 1975 was that accurate?

Serious engineering products, like old washing machines, ships, planes, and nuclear reactors, were designed to be durable. Do not confuse the designed obsolescence of modern white products with serious engineering endeavours.

Many nuclear plants are capable of being run out to the 60 year mark, and probably further.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

So, if TEPCO knew the tsunami was coming, why didn't the government?

Star-Viking. Good point.

There is a reason why prosecution threw it out for obvious reason such as the above.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Many nuclear plants are capable of being run out to the 60 year mark, and probably further.

No, they aren't.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The materials in old plants are subject to micro cracks from age. The design of the old plants was not as good as the new plants either.

There is huge money, backing teams of researchers, saying old plants can be extended, and some have been, but the base of it is that it's cheaper not to have a huge capital outlay for a new plant. Patch here, replace this or that... They are making guesses, possibly but not certainly correct, that the materials will go a little longer without falling apart. Nobody is saying that a 40 year old plant is safer than a new plant. A 60 year old plant is an accident waiting to happen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nuclear power plants in Japan are never going to be compatible with earthquakes and tsunamis. It is strange to think that there are those that think so. And if we were to ask the future generations of Japanese that will still be having to cope with cleaning up the mess of their ancestors then we might not receive a very civil reply.....

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The citizens living around reactors are in constant threat of mortal danger if those reactors malfunction or are destroyed like in Fukushima.. If a reactor is unwanted by residents it should be forced to close.

Absolutely

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Farmboy,

The materials in old plants are subject to micro cracks from age. The design of the old plants was not as good as the new plants either.

No they are not subject to micro-cracking from age: cracking can develop from neutron embrittlement. When plants were initially licenced the understanding of the process, and the testing methods for it were quite crude. Now that there is over 50 years of data on the matter, and new investigative techniques, plants are being rated for 60 years of operation.

Bertie,

"Many nuclear plants are capable of being run out to the 60 year mark, and probably further."

It's the word "probably" in this sentence that bugs me.

Would "possibly" provide less irritiation?

Kurisupisu,

And if we were to ask the future generations of Japanese that will still be having to cope with cleaning up the mess of their ancestors then we might not receive a very civil reply.....

Or, suffering in a +6 degree world, they might ask why we dumped a low-carbon powersource which provided 30% of Japan's power.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No they are not subject to micro-cracking from age: cracking can develop from neutron embrittlement

Please google: "microcrack nuclear" for a different view about concrete, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hi Farmboy,

I googled that and found the following paper: "Effect of phase boundary on nucleation and propagation of microcrack in nuclear grade Z3CN20-09M stainless steel"

It was a nice investigation, one that adds to the knowledge of neutron embrittlement, and so allows us to extend the life of nuclear plants.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nuclear power is not a failed experiment- the reactors mostly handled the situation. Given thorough proper the training even the eventual disaster could have been avoided by releasing the hydrogen gas to avoid explosion- part of its design. The failure of the executives to not properly consider the Tsunami risk was part of it- but if they go further back than the two year ago study then they can find tons more evidence of negligence of them and regulators - will a Japanese court consider that who knows- judges in every country are devoid of logic.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

3 former TEPCO execs to face criminal charges in nuclear crisis

Why not? It's only taken 4 years to get around to it

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Guy_Jean_DailleultAUG. 01, 2015 - 06:55PM JST

Nothing will come of this. It is a decision from a citizen's judicial committee, and they are the only ones who have been treating the accident as a criminal issue. The people actually in charge are quite happy to treat it as an industry wide failure and not a company specific issue, for obvious commercial reasons. And they will make sure that this does not proceed much further.

Actually, in these circumstances, they'll have to humor them and put on the trial, complete with prosecutors and defendants. However, the biggest problem here is that the legal construction is weak. All TEPCO has to do is show they did comply with all the relevant government imposed standards, and they'll be able to escape this.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A Japanese judicial committee has decided that three former utility executives should face criminal charges and stand trial for their alleged negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It said they should be charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury during the accident and its aftermath, including the deaths of dozens of senior citizens in a hospital during and after the lengthy evacuation.

Thank God some citizens of Japan are finally trying to help take back control of their country from Japan Inc. Even if no convictions come of this, or no actual jail time, the symbolic value of this is immense. For decades now the elite of Japan Inc -- the politicians, bureaucrats (including the judicial sysytem), and the corporate chieftans -- have lived above the law, and above responsibility. Because they all had each others back. So billions and billions of dollars of taxpayers' money has been wasted, and, as in this case, lives lost and ruined. About time this has happened.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

The committee, in its July 17 decision, alleged that the three men neglected to take sufficient measures even though they were fully aware of the risk of a major tsunami at the Fukushima plant at least two years before the accident. It said they should be charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury during the accident and its aftermath

So, if TEPCO knew the tsunami was coming, why didn't the government?

Who is going to be charged over the deaths of 20,000 people in the tsunami?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The horrible precedent is not there, Smith, but how companies in the long run would react. One possible effect is that they won't do follow-up risk studies, because they might find something negative and if they don't act immediately and something happens that document may be used to lynch them. If there are no documents, there is nothing to prosecute with.

And TEPCO at least was willing to admit to some errors, only because they are reasonably sure they won't be prosecuted. This did not work out. The next company will not deviate an inch from a no-fault company line.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

"Nuclear power is not a failed experiment- the reactors mostly handled the situation." - comments

Apologies: Do not blame these men. The idea that they caused the devastation of Fukushima is unforgivable.

Responsibility: Nuclear Power is a failed experiment. Do not imagine this disaster cannot or will not happen again.

Note: Chernobyl was fifty-five miles from Kiev. Had the winds been wrong Kiev, a city of 250,000, would have been a wasteland. (read a quarter million dead)

Tokyo? Same scenario. Wake up! Deadly fallout is only a heartbeat away.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I'm sorry, but Japan is a nation where large Tsunamis and devastating earthquakes are an accepted part of life.. For those defending the negligence of TEPCO you should stop and reconsider.. 1) they are a large corporation which has more than enough money and has enough government contracts to fly right over this "little pitfall" They don't need your pity; they wouldn't give any to you and that's for sure. 2) What they did was push their reactor's safety to the point where they were JUST meeting requirements set decades ago; even though it was well known that future Tsunami's are due to be much bigger than historic ones.. And that an aged reactor like that one wouldn't be able to withstand a tsunami even if it was within the "safe" height (which was apparently above their sea wall..) 3) TEPCO does not care about the citizens of Japan, they refused to listen to the residents living around their reactors when asked to shut down several locations.. Which is completely unethical and unlawful. The citizens living around reactors are in constant threat of mortal danger if those reactors malfunction or are destroyed like in Fukushima.. If a reactor is unwanted by residents it should be forced to close.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

"A document released Friday showed the committee of independent citizens voted in favor of indicting Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, who was chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. at the time of the crisis, along with then-vice presidents Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69." - article

Unbelievable.

These ancient men are not to blame.

Nuclear Power is a failed experiment and finding fault with these old men is a travesty. TEPCO isn't at fault, Nuclear Power is. What an amazing embarrassing failure of science, engineering and forensic evaluation. These men do not qualify as responsible for Fukushima. Nuclear Power is a flawed disaster waiting to happen. That has nothing to do with these men. What an Embarrassment harming these men with blame. Unforgiveable.

-8 ( +1 / -10 )

If not for that "penny wise, pound foolish" move, Fukushima Daiichi would have been safe from the tsunami.

Because really, back when that thing was built, people would actually have agreed to all the extra expense involved in keeping that cliff.

This is getting into more and more of a political witch hunt, and however much you may sympathize with Fukushima residences sets a HORRIBLE precedent. Expect the next time something serious happens, no one will accept any responsibility and maximally interfere with the process because they do not want to be prosecuted by a bunch of hypocrites who like cheapness and only scream for safety after the accident happens.

There is a reason why France who prosecutes for aviation disasters is not considered a swell idea. You can either keep assigning blame or try to learn from your mistakes, and a prosecution methodology is conducive to the former over the latter.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

It's a witch hunt decided by citizens group who are basing their judgment based on emotion rather than the law. I seriously doubt these defendants would be handed down with any penalty.

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

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