A view of the central operating control room of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Photo: Pool via REUTERS
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Court rules TEPCO execs not guilty of professional negligence over nuclear crisis

52 Comments
By Mari Yamaguchi

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52 Comments
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The courts will not give us justice. So how do we get justice?

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Without knowing Japanese law, I can not comment whether this verdict is correct. Though I can understand the emotional reaction of those affected by the disaster.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It was unclear if they could have completed preventive measures in time for the tsunami.

According my knowledge and understanding, the entire disaster could have been prevented by simply ensuring that back up generators could not be flooded out. The lack of electricity meant they could not manipulate machinery in the core to prevent a meltdown. The problem was design, not new measures. They put the generators underground in a non-waterproof room despite being next to the ocean....despite having hills on either side of the plant. These people just don't take their jobs or nuclear power nearly seriously enough.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

not surprised at all

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Just gotta love it -

"...Prosecutors said TEPCO was already conducting a tsunami safety review following a 2007 earthquake in Niigata, another location in northern Japan, and the three former executives routinely participated in that process. In March 2008, a TEPCO subsidiary projected that a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters (47 feet) could hit Fukushima, prompting the company to consider building seawalls.

Prosecutors presented hundreds of pieces of evidence including emails between safety officials and the two vice presidents that suggested increasing concern and a need for more tsunami measures at the plant. More than 20 TEPCO officials and scientists testified in court..."

But..........

"...The company has said it could have been more proactive with safety measures, but that it could not anticipate the massive tsunami that crippled the plant..."

And some people question why many of us think the judiciary system has some broken parts (to put it lightly)

15 ( +17 / -2 )

According to the Nuclear Liability Law, TEPCO liability for the costs of the nuclear disaster to a maximum of ¥120 billion. The costs will be paid by the central government and will amount to more than ¥100 trillion in the end, excluding the long term costs of storing nuclear waste.

https://www7.tepco.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/hd05-02-03-002-tir2018.pdf

TEPCO is guilty of corporate professional negligence and corporate manslaughter.

17 ( +19 / -2 )

Not surprising! This is Japan, there is no justice applicable to Japan Inc. They are the system and the system does not sentence itself.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Shocking. Japanese courts filled with Japanese do not convict upper-crust of Japan.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

A few points for those who may think that Tepco is not guilty:

Tepco admitted to have again falsified safety documents and lied for years on the safety check for critical components. This is was a few weeks before the Fukushima disaster. Nobody was prosecuted.

Tepco has ignored years of scientific evidence that the area of Fukishima could see a major tsunami and refused to build adequate protection since they did not want to invest in expensive infrastructures.

Tepco has moved the emergency diesel generators to the underground of the turbines building a few months before the disaster making them completely exposed to rapid flooding. This decision was considered to be unsafe as their original location in the reactor building could have retarded the total loss of power. Tepco ignored all the warnings.

Tepco employees were not trained to properly operate the power plant. They did not know how the condenser and the water gauges worked and they therefore took decisions with catastrophic consequences because of their wrong understanding.

Tepco refused to stop operating BWR-4 boiled water reactor as they were proved to be fragile to sudden loss of cooling and increase of pressure.

And I could go on....

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Whoever decided to locate the facility on the very coast that the world the word "tsunami" should be held accountable.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Tepco has moved the emergency diesel generators to the underground of the turbines building a few months before the disaster making them completely exposed to rapid flooding. This decision was considered to be unsafe as their original location in the reactor building could have retarded the total loss of power. Tepco ignored all the warnings.

I don't think that part is correct? The emergency generators for reactors 1-4 were located in the basements of the turbine building since the plant was built. The emergency generators for the 5&6 reacors are located on a hill behind the reactor buildings.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

TEPCO have already admitted and fully accepted the nuclear disaster was man-made.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Japanese judges are in place to uphold the social order, not to uphold the law.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

This corporate behavior is worldwide, cutting regulations, deregulation all at the request of the corporate world. Corporations don't want anything that will cost them extra to be able to operate, they want to operate on minimum safety or legal binding regulations , to maximize profit for the shareholders, corporations and CEO. Then it seems when disasters or accidents do happen no one at the top is held responsible, especially by the legal system(old boys network) , who maybe give a slap on the wrist to these offenders. So all those lives lost in the Fukushima disaster, will never see any justice, and just the legal system getting rich off appeal after appeal. Someone has to be held accountable, they were aware of the problem, but they thought nah! its never going to happen. Similar to the loss of power after the last typhoon, as reported by JT, they were not prepared.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

In the ruling the court said TEPCO officials were aware of a need to improve tsunami prevention measures and considering taking steps, but their measures were in line with government safety standards at the time.

Unfortunately, regardless of the recommendations made, their safety standards met government levels at the time, which excuses them of any liability. That is their 'get out of jail free' card. There is no mention of falsified records of safety upgrades. They have mysteriously vanished from the proceedings. It should be noted that nobody went to jail for the Minamatta mercury disaster either.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

What? They could not predict that with two continental plates meeting off the coast & tremors (or worse) nearly every day in Tohoku, that there WAS going to be a tsunami etc? It was only ever going to be a matter of time.

The bottom line is they got caught not doing their jobs property but poncing around thinking they were something special.

There should be NO uranium reactors in such a geologically active country like Japan as it is too dangerous. Those that permitted the reactors in the first place are the real culprits as they should never have been there. Yes these execs did not do what was required. Indeed, no-one tapped them on the shoulder & provided an exact date & time, but anyone with a brain in Tohoku more than a week could tell you it was inevitable.

This is what Japan should have developed & built instead of 50+ Uranium reactors (that can spiral out of control) on top of three tectonic plates in one of the most geologically active places in the world.

http://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Molten-salt-irradiation-test-completed-at-Petten

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Its going to happen again. Anyone who follow news knows that there is another mega-quake coming (Kanto or Shikoku area). If it hits Shikoku there is nuclear power plant in operation. History will make a circle.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

TEPCO ..you are not doing your responsibility!

Then what will happen to all the victims? Many suffered mental disorder mental illness and died ..then you are not guilty? Stupid!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I think this court case was against ex executives and not TEPCO the company?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

 idling the plant would have caused a "social impact."

Yikes, that was a close one then. Thank heavens they dodged that bullet.

/s

6 ( +6 / -0 )

People with long memories may remember I had long been an opponent of this prosecution and predicting its failure. Called it.

The key element of the case at the end, is their conformance to contemporary safety standards. Once that was accomplished, only a very policitized court will be able to find them guilty. If companies cannot rely on the officially mandated safety standards, those standards are meaningless and the business environment of that country will suffer tremendously (far more than a little radioactive dust). Standards are there not only to protect the consumers, but to limit liability to business.

You might also consider the real consequences of using internal communications and research against them, should they have been found guilty on those points. That would mean conducting such research is detrimental, and no company with a brain will conduct such research ever again, nor will they commit any doubts onto paper. The paperwork in the next case will be clean, because nothing "dirty" would ever have been put on them.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Expected. First, that's a political problem beyond the field of that court. Then, technically, the judges have no choice. That was a bad case aimed to make Tepco responsible for the disaster (silly) or to declare the the leaders guilty of not preventing for all big risks while it was not possible.

those who may think that Tepco is not guilty:

TEPCO is not a person... and the 3 persons were not charged for their own actions.

The plaintiffs were expected to appeal the decision. A group of their supporters stood outside the court Thursday with placards reading "unjust sentence."

Useless, the conclusion will not change. Start other cases. They should sue the uncles in TEPCO for lesser crimes and in multiple cases, but on their measurable actions, sue item by item : all bad maintenance occurences, all false reports, all gross defects in preparation in case of emergency (the plant had no spare batteries for their torch lamp to start the list of missing tools...)... Sue the leaders for being to slow to disclose information, for lack of support to the team that was their to repair, for indency (CEO hiding in the toilets instead of answering to itws).. And sue for inadequate handling of damages : too slow and insufficient repayment to persons that got houses/businesses unsuable.

According to the Nuclear Liability Law, TEPCO liability for the costs of the nuclear disaster to a maximum of ¥120 billion.

Exactly. Sue that and not only in civil court. Sue it for dishonestly minoring risks. Demand a law change rising the liability.

The courts will not give us justice.

No because they don't judge politic responsibility, they can't. A nuclear plant is not an ordinary business like a ramen stand. Even if it is made and managed by private organizations, the core decisions about safety were taken by authorities. The successive Japanese governments have decided to install plants, they have assessed and accepted the risks et possibility of lots of casualties and of a region rendered inhabitable, they have given TEPCO and others all the details of the norms (to build, maintain, control, repair... and pay damages) and they were responsible for monitoring at all time and TEPCO's cutting corners on maintenance would not have been possible if the job had been done. Abe Shinzo- for instance- he has been PM before 2011 . As that was after Chernobyl and the new giant tsunamis in South Asia, he knew the risks were more than when the plants were planned. He had more power than anyone at TEPCO to act to try prevent the sur-disaster. And well, Fukushima was not much, the next could be really worse. Today, we are like on March 10 2011.

Well, nobody is trying to sue him, not even to vote him out and he is rarely if ever asked questions about the problem. Not only the politicians can go away with it, but they are free to quietly continue.

So how do we get justice?

You vote and elect something else than LDP and LDP-bis. In Hong-Kong, they riot to demand the right to vote. In Japan, people don't bother.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Wisdom of hindsight does not prove guilt. Negligence may be, but criminal negligence is probably too much.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Joke of the day !

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Expected verdict.

Not surprising at all

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Norman Goodman, punishing others for one's emotions is not productive. You are looking for revenge, not justice. It was an accident and a learning experience. Revenge will not change the past.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

The executives were charged with failing to foresee the tsunami that struck the plant after an earthquake and for failing to take preventive measures that might have protected the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Japan's northeastern coast.

Hmm... so if a major city is heavily damaged by a meteor should people sue any surviving members of the council for not building an anti-meteor shield?

Yes, Japan has quakes, and yes it has tsunamis, but can you really hold people accountable because they got they didn't prepare for a hypothetical giant wave?

Just playing Devil's Advocate :)

0 ( +2 / -2 )

True change can only come from within. If the japanese folk don't rise up to remove the stain that is ldp, expect more of the same. Or worse.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Ryder You have obviously ignored all the evidence diligently presented in this thread. Those guys were not in court because of emotions. I do not condemn them because of emotions. I condemn them because of the fact of their negligence, greed, and selfishness. I want both revenge and justice. They fully deserve both.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

But the court said the company's responsibility for supplying electricity to the public meant that idling the plant would have caused a "social impact."

so.....at the expense of human lives???

And even after the shutdown of all nuclear power plants, I didn't see any "social impact" that was so significant that people were having a hard time. Beats me.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

51% owned by the government. Did anyone really expect a different verdict?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Court of appeal ? And for good measure throw into question the Independence of the Judges involved in the prior session.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

To those who thinks justice has not been served. I ask, what happened to reasonable doubt? What happened to presumed innocent until proven guilty?

No government prosecutors will accept the case, because they thought it was manifestly hopeless. What did you expect of appointed prosecutors? That somehow they will procure a miracle win? Floutrage does not win cases.

I find it amazing that there are people in this saga with neighbours who lost everything due to the tsunami, yet wants to hang executives of a company because of lost of power and completely unintended radiation leaks.

IMHO, the court decisions merely followed the laws of the land.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

here's a good summary from an expert as to what actually happened.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4z7OwfwoPzA

perhaps we should be celebrating the heroes rather than fireoff outrage at easy targets (execs and government).

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@zichi

I think you wanna read this.

"UK ‘cannot meet’ EU deadline for Brexit plan and needs another year, government says"

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-deadline-irish-backstop-no-deal-stephen-barclay-october-a9111756.html

Get's better with every passing second.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In Japanese law, conformance to contemporary safety standards is not a bar to negligence.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese judiciary is nonexistent.

Total fraud justice system.

Nigerian justice system is better than this

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Some in comments are really justifying the verdict.

There is a reason why this negligence is said as criminal negligence

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As far as I can remember. Fukushima meltdown has been acknowledged has a man made disasters.

TEPCO has paid USD 83BN compensation.

And nobody is guilty?

i need to see I psychiatrist, my logic must be flawed.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A sign of changing times and attitudes in Japan. When I first came here in the early 90s company executives would kill themselves over something as innocuous as "financial iregularities". These TEPCO clowns still live . . . .

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yes,corporate conduct is around the world, cutting guidelines, deregulation all in line with the corporate world. Companies don't need whatever will cost them extra to have the option to work, they need to work on least security or legitimate restricting guidelines , to expand benefit for the investors, partnerships and CEO. At that point it appears when catastrophes or mishaps do happen nobody at the top is considered mindful, particularly by the legitimate system(old young men organize) , who possibly give a slap on the wrist to these guilty parties. So every one of those lives lost in the Fukuyama catastrophe, will never observe any equity, and simply the lawful framework getting rich off a great many interests. Somebody must be considered responsible, they knew about the issue, however they thought nah! its never going to occur. Like the loss of intensity after the last tropical storm, as revealed by JT, they were not readied.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These reactors are General Electric Mark I reactors. The first was built by GE, and the other 3 were built by Toshiba and Hitachi. They requested not putting the emergency power underground according to the GE plan, but GE refused for "safety reasons". Shouldn't someone from GE be found guilty?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What the Tepco executives should be found guilty of is using the nuclear reactors long past their planned lifetime.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To the Japan government and tepco company.

Not guilty?/you've won!

That's not mean your responsibility is over!

Until now many of us still suffering not recovering the situation

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This entire story has me baffled, saddened, and angry.

How convenient from a legal standpoint that words as simple as "consider" and "considering" can keep you out of jail. Of course anyone can consider anything, for as long or as short of a time as they want. Convenient.

We had to "consider" the social impact of shutting down the plant. Equals... No way we'll shut down, it'll make us lose revenue, and that will "impact" my social life. I can't lose face in front of all my other rich oyaji buddies.

We were "considering" doing the work necessary. This one is most likely just a lie. The lie being they used the word "considering" indicating current tense, when the correct word would have been "considered" indicating past tense.

"We were considering making the repairs and safety upgrades" equals no jail.

VS.

"We considered it an outrageous expense that would affect our bottom line, and came to the conclusion that more money for us was the correct route to take." equals locked up executives.

Since the Gov't (i.e. politicians and regulators) were squarely in the pocket of the utility, Japan should "consider" dumping them all into the ocean where Tepco/JGov is going to release the waste, and electing an entirely new slate of officials.

I mean really Shiba Inus in halloween costumes, or even hot springs monkeys, could probably do a better and more responsible job than the politicos you've already had for far too long.

"Consider" it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

TEPCO have been sued for compensation and have lost in many of those cases.People need to continue to sue.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, what an amazing surprise. A despicable mockery of justice.

Also, can we stop saying "TEPCO has paid xxx billion yen" - the money is coming out of OUR pockets.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In a way, this is a not a bad outcome for the anti-nuclear movement. If these individuals were found liable, one might conclude that nuclear energy is safe, except for a few negligent actors, which the system is correcting. As no specific individual negligence was found, one might conclude that our social systems are not up to the challenge of safely operating multiple nuclear power plants worldwide (if anywhere). There are technical solutions for all of the problems we are aware of, but -- as demonstrated at Fukushima, Chernobil and Three-Mile Island -- it is a challenge for organizations to sustainably maintain operations flawlessly -- and there will always be unexpected events.

An even bigger challenge than operating the plants is developing a nuclear waste transportation and disposal capability that will be safe for thousands of years. Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years. What evidence do we have that society is capable of meeting this challenge? To date, there is no long-term high level nuclear waste storage solution in the United States.

People on this forum know that Japan is far from perfect, but if Japan, with a relatively high level of technical ability, industrial capacity, social order, and quality control expertise cannot safely operate nuclear plants, then how will the other 30 countries with nuclear power plants fare? Several of these countries are less stable politically and have a less well-developed engineering infrastructure than Japan. Natural disasters are a threat worldwide, as are wars and terrorism.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It was unclear if they could have completed preventive measures in time for the tsunami.

and

... if TEPCO had taken steps based on the projection, it would not have prevented the disaster.

But that's not the point. The point is they didn't even try

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This may be my first time joining a site for a single reason other than just reading the news!

Has anyone considered who it was that allowed the reactors to be sited where they were in the first place?

Considering that Japan is known for Volcano's, Earthquakes, Major Rain Storms and Tsunami's, I would of hoped that some Major National Government Department would be at least overseeing where they are all authorised to be placed, let alone conducting real-time, not just on paper, ongoing processes for monitoring, forcasting and ensuring the updating of sites. I haven't seen anything relating to this being publically presented yet.

Blaming the current top executives, who's job it is to overall manage the systems and output nowadays and not those from when the site was planned and built, for everything, is just not fair. Unfortunately, they are fair game as I suspect that the real ones, both private and government, who should be called to account are long gone from association with the project. I'm not saying that they do not seem to own some part of the blame for the outcome, but it's not just them. They took information given to them and responded after consideration and deliberation, unfortunately this time they were wrong. I wonder what the response would have been if they had decided to spend the money, upped users charges to pay for the work and nothing eventuated, would they have been blamed for 'spending money recklessly'!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Extraordinary decision , read the following :

This series of events — the destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi plant by a massive earthquake and tsunami — was entirely predictable. In “Why Power Companies Build Nuclear Reactors on Fault Lines: The Case of Japan,” J. Mark Ramseyer, a visiting professor of Japanese legal studies at Harvard, notes that earthquakes of comparable magnitude have struck the northeast coast of Japan, on average, every 100 years, each one generating a devastating tsunami. In fact, the previous tsunami in 1933 was almost precisely as high as the one that struck Japan on 3/11.

Robert Meyer, co-director of the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, points out that this pattern has been well known since ancient times. A monument from the first century still sits on a hill, high above the area destroyed by the 2011 tsunami, he says. Its inscription reads, “Beware the great tsunami; do not build below this level.”

either these guys don't understand what they are talking about and they should be sued or they tell the truth and the whole gang involved in the decision process to set up the TEPCO plant at Fukushima should be sued and condemned !!!

putting Carlos GHOSN IN JAIL appears enormously easier and safer for Japanese politicians and decision makers !!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

We can all boycott TEPCO by changing to Tokyo Gas which now provides electricity with added benefit we will only get one bill for both gas and electric, they are offering a 10% discount on existing TEPCO charges will have to research if that is ongoing or a one time deal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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