Japanese government responsible for Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan court rules

Japanese government liable for negligence in Fukushima disaster

TOKYO-A court has found for the first time that the Japanese government was negligent in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's triple meltdown in March 2011 and owes damages to people who fled the radiation.

For the first time in the nation's postwar history, a Japanese court held the central government liable for the Fukushima meltdown.

"The government is authorised to order (Tepco) to take such measures and it was possible to prevent the accident", the court said, according to public broadcaster NHK. But the court found that government experts had in fact concluded in a 2002 report that there was a 20% chance of a magnitude 8.0 or greater quake striking the area over the next 30 years.

Still, the finding of negligence and the court's harsh criticism of TEPCO and government bureaucrats-it found specifically that safety took a back seat to economics in management and oversight of the plant-is likely to rock the Japanese nuclear sector, as other such suits are still pending.

The plaintiffs - comprising forced and "voluntary" evacuees - claimed the government and Tepco could have predicted a tsunami more than 10 metres in height would one day hit the plant.

The 137 plaintiffs, who are now living in several regions outside of Fukushima, were seeking a total of ¥1.5bn as compensation for emotional distress. Tepco said in a statement it would review the contents of the ruling before making a response.

Workers stand outside reactor 4 as they continue the radiation decontamination process at the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

It's been six years since 150,000 people were displaced when three nuclear reactors failed in Fukushima, Japan, after an quake and tsunami hit the island nation on March 11, 2011.

Attorney Tsutomu Yonekura of the national liaison association of lawyers representing Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees said of the Maebashi District Court ruling, "The amount of compensation provided for in the ruling remains at the same level as that set in the interim guidelines, even though the court claimed to have independently calculated the compensation payments".

About half of the 150,000 people forced to leave their homes still can not return.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesman, declined to comment but said the ruling would have no impact on the country's nuclear power policies. "Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly "man-made".

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