Former TEPCO bosses indicted over Fukushima disaster

February 29, 2016 by Natsuko Fukue
The crippled fourth reactor building at Fukushima on March 22, 2011, after earthquake and tsunami
MThe crippled fourth reactor building at Fukushima on March 22, 2011, after earthquake and tsunami

Three former executives of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant operator were indicted Monday over the 2011 atomic accident, in what will be the first criminal trial linked to the disaster.

Ex-Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro were formally charged with professional negligence resulting in deaths and injury for their role in the crisis.

The trio were not taken into custody.

"I'm full of emotion," Ruiko Muto, head of a campaign group pushing for a trial, told a Tokyo press briefing.

"This will be a great encouragement for hundreds of thousands of nuclear accident victims who are still suffering and facing hardship," she added.

A judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in July—for the second time since the accident—that the three men should be put on trial.

The decision compelled prosecutors to press on with the criminal case under Japanese law.

Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges against the men, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.

It will be the first criminal trial over responsibility for the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns that forced thousands from their homes in the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata speaks during a press conferecne at the company's headquarters in
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata speaks during a press conferecne at the company's headquarters in Tokyo, in March 2011

It is expected to take at least six months for the first trial to start, said Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer representing the campaigner group.

The trio face jail time of up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to one million yen ($8,850) if convicted.

Public broadcaster NHK said the former executives would plead not guilty, arguing it was impossible to predict the size of the massive tsunami that slammed into Japan's northeast coast.

Although the March 11 earthquake and tsunami killed 18,500 people, the nuclear disaster it caused is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone.

The charges are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalised patients who were hastily evacuated from the area and later died.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. vice-president Sakae Muto bows as he apologizes, prior to a press conference in Tokyo, in 2011

Around a dozen others—including TEPCO employees and members of Japan's Self Defense Forces—were injured during the accident.

'Major step forward'

Environmental group Greenpeace said the decision to press on with a criminal case was "a major step forward".

"The court proceedings that will now follow should reveal the true extent of TEPCO's and the Japanese regulatory system's enormous failure to protect the people of Japan," said Hisayo Takada, deputy programme director at the organisation's Japan office.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency last year said a misguided faith in the complete safety of atomic power was a key factor in the Fukushima accident.

A worker wearing a protective suit and mask takes notes in front of storage tanks for radioactive water, during a media tour at
A worker wearing a protective suit and mask takes notes in front of storage tanks for radioactive water, during a media tour at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

It pointed to weaknesses in disaster preparedness and in plant design, along with unclear responsibilities among regulators.

A 2012 parliamentary report also said Fukushima was a man-made disaster caused by Japan's culture of "reflexive obedience", but no one has been punished criminally.

An angry public pointed to cosy ties among the government, regulators and nuclear operators that allegedly insulated TEPCO's executives from being charged.

Campaigners have called for about three dozen company officials to be held accountable for their failure properly to protect the site against the tsunami.

The accident at Fukushima forced the shutdown of dozens of reactors across Japan, with a handful now having been restarted.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and utility companies are still pushing to get reactors back in operation, nearly five years after the crisis.

But anti-nuclear sentiment remains high in Japan and there is widespread opposition to restarts.

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7 comments

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Duude
5 / 5 (1) Feb 29, 2016
About fricken time!!!
gkam
1.4 / 5 (5) Feb 29, 2016
The "punishment" will be nothing. The corporate-owned government and the Yakuza run that nation, through their puppets in the LDP.

It is time nukers took responsibility for what they have done to the rest of the world.
OdinsAcolyte
5 / 5 (1) Feb 29, 2016
Nothing is done in Japan without the will of government.
The blame lies higher. The blame lies with greed for easy energy.
It lies with the entire nation.
OdinsAcolyte
5 / 5 (1) Feb 29, 2016
Nothing is done in Japan without the will of government.
The blame lies higher. The blame lies with greed for easy energy.
It lies with the entire nation.
Lord_jag
3 / 5 (4) Feb 29, 2016
All that "clean" energy. Right.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2016
Willie will defend them. http://ecowatch.c...r-waste/

But why are we allowing these folk to build more future disasters? MONEY!!

Big Money. We promised to cover $8,300,000,000 of loans to a private company so they could build two of these monsters, which are already uneconomical to run, costing two to three times the cost of power from renewables.

And because they are so expensive, they have to dun their customers for that price for 60 years! Sell the power to the nuclear apologists. Make them pay for it.

For 60 years.
WillieWard
3 / 5 (2) Mar 01, 2016
build more future disasters
a disaster where no one has been killed or sickened by the radiation. http://www.forbes...astrous/
But even so, the bogus-environmentalists want to shut down it to replace by fossil-fuel plants to compensate intermittency of monstrously large wind /solar farms that are ruining natural landscapes and wildlife's habitats, butchering millions of birds and bats. MONEY!! "Green" Money, hypocritical greenies.

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