The wrecked No. 3 reactor at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Photo: IAEA/Handout via REUTERS
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Trial of TEPCO executives over Fukushima disaster heads to conclusion

22 Comments
By Aaron Sheldrick

A Tokyo court will hand down a verdict later this week on whether three Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) executives are liable for the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the only criminal case to arise out of the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

The trial, which started in June 2017, was conducted by state-appointed lawyers after prosecutors decided not to bring charges against the executives of the company.

Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and onetime executives Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro apologized during the first hearing at the Tokyo District Court for causing trouble to the victims and society, but pleaded not guilty.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, sparking three reactor meltdowns and prompting Japan to shut down its entire fleet of nuclear reactors.

Lawyers acting as prosecutors said the three executives had access to data and studies anticipating the risk to the area from a tsunami exceeding 10 meters in height that could trigger power loss and cause a nuclear disaster.

Lawyers for the defendants, however, said the estimates were not well established, and even experts had divisive views on how the Fukushima reactors would be affected by a tsunami.

The three former TEPCO executives are the first individuals to face criminal charges for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but a high bar for proof may prevent a conviction. Prosecutors had declined to bring charges, citing insufficient evidence, but a civilian judiciary panel twice voted to indict the executives, overruling the determination not to go to trial.

"If I were a gambling man I would certainly not bet on a conviction. The citizen-panel initiated trials do not have a good success rate," Colin Jones, a professor at the Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, told Reuters.

"The charitable view would be that prosecutors don't take cases unless they know they can win, so it shouldn't be surprising that the cases they don't want to take end up being losers," he said.

Citizen judiciary panels, selected by lottery, are a rarely used feature of Japan's legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic overreach.

Indictments brought by the panels, however, have a low conviction rate. One review of eight of these cases by the Eiko Sogo Law Office found just one, equal to a 17 percent conviction rate, compared with an overall rate of 98 percent in Japan.

Japan's government estimated in 2016 that the total cost of dismantling the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, decontaminating the affected areas, and paying compensation would amount to around $200 billion.

More than 160,000 residents fled nearby towns in the aftermath of the March 2011 tsunami as radiation from the reactor meltdowns contaminated water, food and air.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

22 Comments

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I'm inclined to agree with the professor. It is unfortunate and very aggravating that these men can live a life of luxury while others have had their lives ruined by their negligence and incompetence.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

There can really only be one conclusion, one outcome, guilty of corporate negligence.

They caused hundreds of trillions yen of loss.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

They've apologised, shown a degree of remorse, however insincere it may have been; so even if they are even found guilty, expect a token suspended sentence at the most.

And even then, they'll appeal to a Higher Court which would in all likelihood dismiss the case.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

They've apologised, shown a degree of remorse, however insincere it may have been; so even if they are even found guilty, expect a token suspended sentence at the most.

Bingo. The Japanese "justice" system at work.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

unfortunately,

Japanese government has appointment right of judges.

and present Abe government support nuclear industries.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Trial of TEPCO executives over Fukushima disaster heads to total exoneration and a nice fat package of taxpayers' money to apologise for inconveniencing them. There - fixed it.

Come on - we can't expect the Old Boys' Club to be accountable for anything, surely? Let's remember where we are, people.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

TIJ,

Suspended sentence.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

These people are guilty as charged, no one gets away with such a visual & dramatic disaster. Apology ???. will the dead come back ???.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

In Russia, we know what a nuclear disaster is.

 People have sorrow and they want revenge. They can be understood. But understand the people who worked nuclear power. Forecasting the effects of the tsunami at 100% is not realistic.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The Fukushima nuclear plant could have been designed and built without any extra money to withstand the earthquake and tsunami. The reactors withstood the earthquake but not the tsunami.

The biggest problem is that the entire nuclear village, the government, the atomic safety agencies, the scientists, the power companies, all of the never believed a nuclear disaster in Japan was possible.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

understand the people who worked nuclear power. Forecasting the effects of the tsunami at 100% is not realistic.

A few years before the incident, officials at Fukushima were warned of a tsunami the size of the one that hit, but they ignored the advice because it was too expensive.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

A few years before the incident, officials at Fukushima were warned of a tsunami the size of the one that hit, but they ignored the advice because it was too expensive.

No, they did not ignore the warning: they were investigating it, which was a hell of a lot more than anyone else was doing: hence 20,000 tsunami deaths in Tohoku.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Most of the tsunami deaths happened in Miyagi not Fukushima.

TEPCO could have built their nuclear plant on the cliff instead of removing it to save money with the size of the cooling pumps. Could have made every reactor building totally waterproof with self sufficient for water cooling and power with their own generators instead of putting them in the turbine buildings basements.

They could have held safety drills and issued a safety manual, which was only 4 A4 sheets. Even the plant manager didn't know where safety valves were located.

The nuclear disaster was avoidable.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Ashamed on you!

Don't disregard all the victims and residents in Fukushima!

Just do your obligations UNTIL THE LAST ONE!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

An example of Japanese soceity to a T!
0 ( +0 / -0 )

GUILTY of corporate negligence. Banished to Oshima for life!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They won't be convicted.

Personally I would like government and everyone to focus on the bigger issue - contaminated water and nuclear reactor.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Jail for life please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Personally I would like government and everyone to focus on the bigger issue - contaminated water and nuclear reactor.

I think the government is ambidextrous enough it really can jail those creeps and work on the reactor and solve the water problem all at the same time. Its really not just two guys sitting in an office. Its a veritable army of people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Get those suspended sentences ready! Followed by golden parachutes at jobs at universities or city halls.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The entire nuclear village which exited prior to the 3/11 nuclear disaster are guilty not just these executives.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Verdict is in-not guilty!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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