Fukushima nuclear disaster: ex-Tepco executives ordered to pay $127 billion

Fukushima nuclear disaster: ex-Tepco executives ordered to pay $127 billion

Workers dressed in protective suits remove radioactive material from the Fukushima power plant, March 3, 2022.

Japanese justice has for the first time found the guilt of four former Tepco executives for the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, condemning them to record damages equivalent to nearly 127 billion Canadian dollars.

< p class="e-p">This decision is the culmination of legal proceedings launched in 2012 by shareholders of Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, devastated by a huge tsunami on the 11 March 2011.

As they walked out of court, plaintiffs held up banners that read Liability Admitted and Shareholders Won.

Court-ordered damages total more than 13,300 billion yen, or nearly 127 billion Canadian dollars, a record for a civil lawsuit in Japan, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers.

We are aware that [this sum] is far beyond their ability to pay, agreed at a press conference Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer for the shareholders, expecting the former leaders of Tepco pay what their personal means will allow them.

The justice explained that this astronomical amount should be paid to Tepco to meet its costs of dismantling the plant, decontaminating the land and storage of radioactive waste and debris, as well as compensation to be paid to residents affected by the nuclear accident.

The shareholders were not seeking compensation for themselves directly, but for Tepco, of which they hold part of the capital.

Japanese demonstrated on Wednesday in front of the court hearing the case.

The judge ruled that the sense of safety and responsibility required for an operator of a nuclear activity was fundamentally lacking, according to Japanese state broadcaster NHK.

The shareholders argued that the disaster could have been avoided if Tepco executives had heeded reports advocating preventive measures against a tidal wave, such as building levees and installing the systems at a higher altitude. power plant emergency power, located by the Pacific Ocean in northeastern Japan.

Three of the plant's six reactors – Units 1, 2 and 3 – were in operation when the tsunami, following a powerful underwater earthquake, swept through.

Their systems Cooling failed when waves flooded the emergency generators, melting the cores of all three reactors.

Hydrogen explosions had also occurred in reactors 1, 3 and 4, causing heavy damage. The work to decontaminate and dismantle the plant is expected to take several more decades.

We once again express our most sincere apologies to the people of Fukushima and society in general for the damage and concerns caused by this disaster, a Tepco spokesperson told AFP on Wednesday, declining to comment on the court decision.

The surroundings of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in March 2011.

Since the; accident, Tepco faces numerous legal proceedings, including from residents who were forced to evacuate the area because of the radiation, in sometimes very trying conditions.

In 2019, three former leaders of the operator prosecuted in criminal proceedings by evacuees from the region were acquitted at first instance. The civil parties appealed.

These ex-bosses cleared at the time – the former chairman of the board of directors of Tepco Tsunehisa Katsumata and the former Vice Presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro – are among four civilly convicted on Wednesday, along with another former company executive, Masataka Shimizu.

If the earthquake and especially the tsunami of March 11, 2011 caused the death of 18,500 people in the northeast of Japan, the nuclear disaster of Fukushima itself did not cause any immediate casualties.

However, it is indirectly responsible for several thousand related deaths, recognized by the Japanese authorities as deaths due to the deterioration of the living conditions of the many people evacuated from the region.< /p>

The Japanese state and Tepco have already been sentenced in civil proceedings on several occasions, following numerous complaints from collective evacuees. Their fines, however, remained symbolic.

Six young plaintiffs also launched a collective legal action in Japan at the end of January to try to have the link existing, according to them, between their cancers recognized. thyroid and their exposure to radiation from the Fukushima plant, near which these people were living at the time of the disaster.

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