Opinion: Five years after Fukushima, there are big lessons for nuclear disaster liability

March 15, 2016 by Makoto Takahashi, University Of Cambridge, The Conversation
Anti-nuclear demonstration in Nagatacho, 2015. Credit: TK Kurikawa

As four reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant suffered catastrophic cooling failures and exploded in March 2011, the world watched in disbelief. For Japan, this was not just the greatest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. It was "the most severe crisis … since World War II."

Five years on, the nation continues to struggle with the effects. Towns up to 40km from the plant remain a dead-zone: desolate and uninhabited. As many as 100,000 people still remain displaced, unable to return to their homes. Workers at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) still don claustrophobic masks and rubber suits to venture into the Fukushima facility. Their job is to decommission the plant safely, a task that plant manager Akira Ono recently said was "about 10% complete".

The task is beset with setbacks and spiralling costs. In December 2011 the government estimated that managing Fukushima would cost US$50 billion. By 2014 this had nearly doubled to include US$19 billion to decommission the Fukushima plant; US$22 billion to decontaminate the surrounding area; US$9 billion to build temporary storage facilities for nuclear waste; and US$43 billion to compensate the victims. Today even this looks hopelessly optimistic.


Fukushima is now the biggest civil liability case in history. More than two million people have sued TEPCO and US$50 billion has already been paid out. This is already equivalent to 49 Exxon Valdez oil spill settlements, and experts predict the total cost of compensation could rise to US$120 billion.

One notable subplot has been compensation for cases of suicide. A court's landmark decision that TEPCO pay US$470,000 to the heirs of a 58-year-old farmer's wife named Hamako Watanabe could prove much more costly. The Watanabe family were evacuated from the village of Yamakiya in April 2011, losing their farm and leaving them with a US$140,000 mortgage on their now uninhabitable home. Watanabe became severely depressed and during an authorised one-night visit to their home in June the same year, she burned herself to death.

Other bereaved families have also come forward. Two similar cases are now underway, and the Japanese government anticipates that as many as 56 suicides could be tied to the disaster. And this looks conservative: the NHK broadcasting service has put the number at 130. What is certain is that the number is rising. A further 19 evacuees took their lives in 2015 and there is no reason to believe 2016 will be any different.

Who pays

Officially the buck for everything stops with TEPCO. Under Japanese nuclear-liability law, the nuclear operator is responsible for the full cost of an accident, even if it is not proven to be negligent.

In practice, the Japanese taxpayer is bearing the burden. TEPCO's liability may be unlimited, but its assets are not. Despite the country's seismic history, TEPCO's insurance policy incredibly did not cover earthquakes or tsunamis. And in accordance with regulations introduced in 2009, TEPCO was insured for up to only US$1.1 billion anyway: about a fiftieth of the damages paid out so far.

The government has been forced to prevent TEPCO's bankruptcy – over and above all of its other Fukushima-related outgoings. It has bought a majority share and has continued to finance compensation payments through a series of indemnity agreements and loans in the form of government compensation bonds.

One has to ask whether the concept of unlimited liability has any real meaning when the operator's capacity to pay is so limited. It also raises questions for other parts of the world. In the UK, for example, nuclear liability is capped at a mere US$220m, less than two hundredths of what TEPCO has already paid in compensation claims. Japan is evidently not the only country that should be taking lessons from Fukushima.

Explore further: TEPCO's Fukushima compensation cost to reach over $57 bn

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December 27, 2012

The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant on Thursday sought yet more money to pay ballooning bills for compensating victims of last year's disaster.

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January 18, 2013

A fish contaminated with radiation levels more than 2,500 times the legal limit has been caught near Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, its operator said Friday.

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February 4, 2013

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1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 15, 2016
A disaster where no one has been killed or sickened by the radiation, the tsunami is that was the real killer; other deaths(abortion, heart-attacks, suicides) were induced by fear-mongers and sensationalist mass media.
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 15, 2016
Fukushima Five Years Later: "The Fuel Rods Melted Through Containment And Nobody Knows Where They Are Now"
3 / 5 (10) Mar 15, 2016
WillieWard, winner of the the worst person award on March 15, 2016.
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 15, 2016
This is for Willie:

3 / 5 (10) Mar 15, 2016
"Today, the radiation at the Fukushima plant is still so powerful it has proven impossible to get into its bowels to find and remove the extremely dangerous blobs of melted fuel rods."

2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 15, 2016
It is worse than that, VV. They cannot even view any part of where the intensely-radioactive blobs of Corium, (the molten mass of reactor, cores, and fuel,), are in the wreckage.

The intense radiation kills everything including our robots.

Let's see, $100,000,000,000 divided by how many kWh produced? What is the real cost of nuclear power?
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 15, 2016
Nuclear power has "Defense in Depth", which means they are doing all they can to keep it from killing us.

BTW, GE has a really good history of development of the BWR if you care to read it, and the different ways they tried to make it"safe".
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 15, 2016
Another lesson learned from Fukushima is that the anti-nuclear/pro-renewable activists need to lie a lot(with myths, beliefs, fictional data, conspiracy theories) to get their ecologically hypocritical means of energy production succeeded, but even so, they have failed to expand it in Japan. They should enhance a little bit their brainwash technique so Japan can blindly accept eco-friendly bird-choppers/landscape-destroyers with fossil fuels to compensate intermittency, as in German, to say good-bye to carbon-free nuclear power which has killed no one.
1.9 / 5 (9) Mar 15, 2016


"Shocking how many people died in Fukushima" — Cremated bodies of Fukushima radiation workers found near plant — "Such a high rate of cancer" being detected in Fukushima children
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 15, 2016

.. Cremated bodies .. found near plant..
"ENENews, or Energy News, is a fear mongering anti-nuclear news aggregator that was created in response to the Fukushima nuclear accident. The site tends to have three different types of posts: posts that imply the Fukushima accident has poisoned the entire Pacific Ocean and adjacent coastlines (as if a single nuclear accident could do such a thing) and that "They" are covering up the true scale of the disaster. The site also features posts that report on any and every case of animal death and disease that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and adjacent coastlines, and posts that claim that the Fukushima reactors are seconds away from exploding again and releasing more pollution."
2 / 5 (8) Mar 15, 2016
Yes, willie, they are a news aggregator, meaning they gets their news from a range of sources, such ABC News and the United Press, Asahi Shimbun, and others.

The news is real, and not propaganda, unfortunately.
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 15, 2016
Yes, willie, they are a news aggregator, meaning they gets their news from a range of sources, such ABC News and the United Press, Asahi Shimbun, and others.

The news is real, and not propaganda, unfortunately.
Yes it is factual because george kamburoff says it is.

Is this where you found out that Pu was raining down on idaho george? Or that dirty molten Pu went bang at fukushima because H2 blew up nearby, but it didn't leave a crater because it was an airburst?

Of course - H2 is lighter than air.

Or did you get it from that other favorite site of yours, written by that nipponese expat hypochondriac living in a Romanian basement?

You know, the one whose radiation poisoning cleared up when he moved out of japan?
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 16, 2016
3 years before Fukushima, 80000 instantly killed by hydropower. And people are afraid of a accident, were only one worker had got sickness related to radiation.

Why do peole just love to prove they are suffering from complete populistisk retardation???


TheGhostofOtto1923: Radation poisioning do not clear up because you move or do anything. The only way it can do that is because its not radiation poisioning but hypochondriac behavior surely because of the stress all those retardated anti-nuclear propaganda do to people that live in Japan and near Fukushima...


1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 16, 2016
rolf, they want your big mouth at Fukushima. Nobody else knows how to clean up an area with intense radiation. It even kills the robots, but I am sure YOU can just go in there and clean it up.

The real scientists are telling us something else.

BTW, after you "clean it up", where do you put all the intensely-radioactive materials, . . . your house?
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 16, 2016
It even kills the robots
Real data shows no increase in cancer rates.
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 16, 2016
"In fact, the biggest threat to the people of the Fukushima Prefecture is not thought to be from cancer, but "mental and social well-being." The disaster caused massive upheavals, disrupted people's jobs, and induced heavy mental stress on tens of thousands of people. Those who were evacuated are five times more likely to suffer from psychological distress than the rest of Japan, and over 14 percent are recorded as suffering psychological trauma, compared with just 4 percent of the rest of the population."

Really, Willie. you think no harm was done at Fukushima? Maybe everyone should have sheltered in place?

You are a shill without shame.
3 / 5 (4) Mar 16, 2016
..induced heavy mental stress on tens of thousands of people.
Thanks to fear-mongers.
Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (8) Mar 16, 2016
It even kills the robots
fear mongering doesn't help the issue, especially when you want to argue about death rates of power supply sources
you can look at actual numbers and see that nuclear has a far safer rate than Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Biofuel/Biomass, Peat, Solar (rooftop), Wind, or Hydro ... don't take my word, though... here is just ONE study

here is a blog that looks into it

here is more info

note- this does NOT take into consideration pollution or global warming!
(notice how i did that? i made a claim, then i supported it with evidence)

now, this is not to say that i advocate for fuels
it states only that if you are going to denigrate nuke over al else as being "deadlier" you should present facts about the subject, not conjecture and bias
1 / 5 (6) Mar 16, 2016
It even kills our robots. Sorry if that is not to your liking. It is what has happened.

This is about Fukushima and the damage it is still doing, and will continue to do for decades. If you want to compare Chernobyl and Fukushima to other powerplant disasters, you will lose.

" if you are going to denigrate nuke over al else as being "deadlier" you should present facts about the subject, not conjecture and bias"

That is why I tried to steer you to Chernobyl Children. For contrast, want to see the happy children of the windfarms?
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 16, 2016
It even kills our robots.
poor robots! If they had feelings, they would love windfarms, because windmills kill birds, bats, and engineers, but not robots, at least up to now.
4 / 5 (8) Mar 16, 2016
TheGhostofOtto1923: Radation poisioning do not clear up because you move or do anything
uh yeah I was being sarcastic. Sorry but are you being sarcastic too or just dense?
even kills our robots. Sorry if that is not to your liking. It is what has happened
Well so does water georgie. So I suggest keeping your robots out of those water barrels you filled up for the imminent superquake.

Your wind-up ducky should be ok.
1 / 5 (5) Mar 16, 2016
double post
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 16, 2016
Sorry if that is not to your liking
so, you didn't read the statistics then?
That is why I tried to steer you blah blah
no, you steered people there to be a fear-monger

if you look at the overall numbers, Nuke is far safer than you are claiming. now, that is not to say that there aren't risks, but is does show, in the numbers, that you are simply paranoid about the "potential" risks and thus promoting a fear-based argument that is without actual statistical backup
(IOW- sans evidence)

and before you freak out - i am not defending willie... he's being stupid too

if you want to make a point, it is far better to present evidence for logical discourse than promote fear because of your paranoia and personal beliefs
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 16, 2016
Before you accuse others of paranoia, be transparent. It isn't me who is hiding.

Caution is not paranoia. My caution comes from my professional experience, which may be why you do not feel caution in this case.
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 16, 2016
My caution comes from my professional experience, which may be why you do not feel caution in this case
your experience apparently kept you from learning about statistics then

so... which experience taught you about ignoring evidence?
Caution is not paranoia
promoting fear that is based upon beliefs that are not represented in the statistics is not caution, it is delusion

feel free to refute that any time you want with actual evidence showing the study wrong
so far, all you have provided is your personal opinion, which is equivalent to absolutely nothing

when opinion is trumped by evidence - then the opinion isn't worth anything except as a means to propagate fear

this is exactly how religions work

did you get a masters in religious studies too?
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 16, 2016
No, Stumpy, I got my caution from doing the BWR Safety Relief Valve and Suppression Pool stuff, which made me look up the rest of it and get familiar with it all.

You can go through the GE history of the BWR too, and see how they kept making changes and changes and changes so it won't kill us. Nuclear companies call it "safety", but other powerplants do not need that stuff.

Did you take my social security number off the internet?
Captain Stumpy
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 16, 2016
which made me look up the rest of it and get familiar with it all
and yet you still ignore the safety statistics?

why is that?
(honest question - your primary argument against nukes is the safety issue, so why would you then support an energy source that has a safety record orders of magnitude worse than nukes?)
Did you take my social security number off the internet?
did you send your lawyer after me?

BTW- that means "no"
- because you agreed to the conditions stated before sending said paperwork and you were notified to redact personal information (with the exception of the SF-180-linked below)

1 / 5 (6) Mar 17, 2016
No I did not. I do not read your silly email, as I told you.

And I said to take it down, and not to put it up. You have screwed yourself.

Why is such a young kid already on the public dole? Why are you already a parasite on the rest of us?

Where do you get your self-righteous attitude if you are just a kid sponging off the rest of us, acting like a cop?
Captain Stumpy
3.9 / 5 (7) Mar 17, 2016
I do not read your silly email, as I told you
you answered that e-mail, therefore you had to have opened it and read it, moron

the rest of your post is crap and you are trying to derail another thread with your cry-baby whine because you screwed the pooch, you got caught lying and you still, STILL can't actually support most of your claims with evidence

by all means, if you think you have a case, do something about it. you've already threatened me with all kinds of crap and stalked me, so... either act on it or STFU
1 / 5 (6) Mar 17, 2016
If you are so brave and correct, why do you have to hide? Of whom are you so SCARED?

I proved who I am, and you did not like it, so you put my SSN on the internet, and accepted responsibility for it, right here.
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 17, 2016
I proved who I am, and you did not like it
Yeah you have proven you're a compulsive liar.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 17, 2016
If you are so brave and correct, why do you have to hide?
aint hiding... you're just not competent enough to actually use a search engine, which is why you get outed as an incompetent liar and crackpot every time you try to go technical

you know, there are a lot of courses at your local jr. college (sometimes free to seniors) that will help you learn to use the internet
you should consider taking a few... maybe get an internet for dummies book?
Of whom are you so SCARED?
well, considering i gave you a freakin' map to my house... why are YOU so scared to come say anything to my face?

and you are the moron responsible for the SSN crap... if you had a case, you would be sending me a summons to federal court - you idiot

since you want to derail this thread, i will let you know i ain't posting explaining all this to you again - maybe you should tattoo it to your forehead?

either keep your word and send your lawyers or STFU, ya gobshite
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 17, 2016
Well, gosh, Willie and Stumpy really are alike: Two folk hiding behind pseudonyms, taking shots at those with real identities here.

What character, what credibility, . . . huh?

For the rest of you, it got the goats of Stumpy, otto and Ira when I proved I worked on rocket planes at Edwards AFB, put together and operated the Electronic Battlefield, did studies and wrote reports for NASA, was an EE in Semiconductors, was Senior Engineer for Pacific Gas & Electric, and wrote and delivered the national course in Power Quality for the electric utility industry in the United States.

Yeah, I know it is unlikely, but I can and have proven it all. But it was too late for those three snipers who had already invested themselves in opposition, and they have those little egos, . . .

So, let's stay on topic, and stop the personal trashing, okay?
Captain Stumpy
3.9 / 5 (7) Mar 17, 2016
OT baiting flaming troll post

do something or STFU about it here

let's stay on topic, and stop the personal trashing, okay?

(and how is pointing out that you lie about the statistics a personal attack anyway? LMFAO)
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 18, 2016
If you are so brave and correct, why do you have to hide? Of whom are you so SCARED?
Gkam imagines prudent people are scared while george kamburoff the reckless egomaniac exposes himself and his family by posting personal info on the internet.

Don't you realize this doesn't make you look brave, it makes you look extremely STUPID?

And then you post ignorance like Pu raining down on idaho, H2 explosions actually causing dirty molten Pu to fission, claims of expertise in environmental mgt while sharing an MS online which is for something else entirely, calling dried airborne manure 'volatile solids', ignorance of CFR regs for the last 40 years, etcetcetc...

-All of which just confirms that george kamburoff is a lying cheating moron of the highest (lowest?) order.

WHY do you insist on making such a FOOL of yourself in public george?

Have you no pride? No self-respect?
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 18, 2016
Don't you realize this doesn't make you look brave, it makes you look extremely STUPID?
-You can just imagine the psychopathic mind working to rationalize this...

'Since all these people are goobers and I'm a genius it's obvious they tricked me - no wait, I'm too smart for that, they took advantage of my honor and integrity to STEAL this and post it illegally.'

'Thus I will have no problem suing them and further I will naturally win because I am the superior being.'

'Just like all those supervisors I tricked into hiring me. I wouldn't give those morons the time of day let alone a supervisor job.'
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 18, 2016
"A woman with a staggering record of fraud, deceit, lies, and broken promises concluded a letter to the parole board with, "I've let a lot of people down… One is only as good as her reputation and name. My word is as good as gold.""

-THIS is how the psychopath thinks.

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