Disasters & Accidents

Japan court upholds acquittal of ex-TEPCO executives over nuclear crisis

Tokyo, Jan 18 (EFE).- A Japanese court upheld Wednesday the acquittal of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) over their responsibility in the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.

The Tokyo High Court upheld the ruling passed by a lower court in 2019, in which the three former executives were absolved of the charge of professional negligence for failing to prevent the nuclear disaster.

The Tokyo court underlined that the company’s 82-year old former president Tsunehisa Katsumata, and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro (76) and Sakae Muto (72) could not have predicted the massive tsunami that resulted in core meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The nuclear disaster, the second worst in history after Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986), was caused by a magnitude-9 earthquake followed by a tsunami on Mar.11, 2011, which, according to official data, left around 18,000 dead and missing.

The three former TEPCO executives were held responsible in connection to the death of 44 people who were evacuated from the hospital where they were admitted and the injuries of 13 others, including employees of the affected nuclear plant and members of the Japanese Armed Forces.

The prosecution claimed the accused were already informed of the possibility of the disaster in an internal report in 2008, and asked for a five year prison sentence for not having adopted prior security measures to avoid such an accident.

The defense argued that the defendants could not have predicted a tsunami like the one that hit the area of the nuclear plant, with waves of over 10 meters.

Out of the six nuclear reactors at Daiichi, four suffered considerable damages and three had core meltdowns after the cooling system shut down due to the earthquake and tsunami, leaving the plant without electrical supply and flooding the back-up generator.

Currently, there are multiple legal proceedings against the company and the government for not taking preventative measures against the accident.

In June of 2023, the Supreme Court cleared the state of all responsibility for the Fukushima crisis, since it could not have prevented the disaster.

However, in July, a Tokyo court held former executives of TEPCO responsible – among them the three acquitted Wednesday – for the harm caused to investors and ordered them to compensate the investors with 13.3 trillion yen (around $101 billion). EFE


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