Fukushima court rules Tepco, govt liable over 2011 disaster

Fukushima

"We understand the court did not fully acknowledge the government's defense", said Kazuhiro Okuma, manager of the general affairs division of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. He said the regulatory authority is determined to fulfill its duty to strictly examine reactor safety under the new standard based on the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident.

The ruling followed a decision in March by the Maebashi District Court, which ordered the government and TEPCO to split the 38 million yen ($336,000) compensation to 62 former Fukushima residents in addition to the compensation TEPCO had already paid them. The district court turned down that request. The plaintiffs in the Chiba and Maebashi cases were evacuees, including those who were subject to government evacuation orders and those who had left their homes at their own discretion.

The court noted that the main responsibility for nuclear power plant safety lies with the operator and secondary responsibility with the state.

Of the 3,800 plaintiffs in the lawsuit at the Fukushima District Court, about 10 percent were living in areas where government evacuation orders were issued.

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The government and Tepco, for their part, claimed the assessment was not established knowledge, and that the tsunami could not have been foreseen.

The court supported the plaintiffs' argument that the disaster could have been avoided had TEPCO moved the emergency diesel generators located in its basement to a higher spot and made its reactor buildings water tight, based on a 2002 study that recommended those changes.

In its defense, the government said that before the meltdowns, it did not have the power to force Tepco to take protective anti-flooding measures and was only authorized to do so by legislation passed after the accident. They sought a monthly compensation of ¥50,000 until the radiation levels return to pre-crisis level of 0.04 microsieverts per hour.

The tsunami that swept into the plant on March 11, 2011, knocked out the reactors' cooling system and destroyed the backup generators that could have kept it running and kept the nuclear fuel stable. Around 55,000 people remained evacuated both within and outside Fukushima Prefecture as of the end of August.

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