Janina Lim – Fourth Estate Contributor
Tokyo, Japan (4E) – A district court in Japan ordered the state and the firm behind the Fukushima plant which set forth the 2011 nuclear crisis to pay affected residents a total of 500 million yen or $4.5 million for damages.
The Fukushima District Court held government accountable for failing to order Tokyo Electric Power Co. to improve safety measures despite having knowledge, as early as 2002, of the plant’s risk of triggering a massive tsunami in the region
The court sided with the argument of the plaintiffs, about 3,800 of them, that the disaster could have been prevented had the economy and industry ministry not been lax in prodding TEPCO to move emergency diesel generators from the basement to higher ground and make the reactor buildings water-tight based on 2002 data that suggested there was a risk of a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters.
The court also upheld arguments by the plaintiffs that the firm shrugged of the 2008 warnings from a government study group about the major tsunami which shuttered the reactors’ cooling system and the backup generators that could have kept it functioning to keep the nuclear fuel stable.
The government and TEPCO have argued that the accident was unavoidable as the March 11, 2011 tsunami of such impact could not have been foreseen.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will mull whether to appeal the ruling with other government agencies.
The 3,800 plaintiffs who victored filed the case in 2015, making it the largest group among the 30 similar pending lawsuits which involve 12,000 people more across Japan.
The ruling was the second that acknowledged government’s responsibility over the Fukushima meltdowns, giving more hopes for other pending cases to prosper.
The first was a decision in March by the Maebashi District Court which ordered the government and the utility to pay the 38 million yen or $336,000 compensation to 62 former Fukushima residents in addition to the compensation TEPCO had already paid them.
This was, however, countered by a September ruling which held TEPCO as the only one responsible for the payout to nearly 45 former Fukushima residents of damages which was hiked to 376 million yen or $3.4 million.
TEPCOremains to struggle with the plant’s decommissioning, which is expected to complete after several decades.
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