In a First, Japanese Court Blames Government in Fukushima Disaster
The Japanese government and the electric utility that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were negligent in not preventing the meltdowns in 2011 that forced thousands of people to flee the area, a district court in eastern Japan ruled on Friday.
The court awarded a total of 38.55 million yen in damages to 62 of the 137 plaintiffs who fled from Fukushima Prefecture to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere - about one-fortieth of the complainants' total compensation demand of approximately 1.5 billion yen.
TEPCO measured radiation levels at Fukushima's reactor 2 at 530 sieverts per hour, which is higher than the 73 sieverts measured shortly after the disaster. That apocalyptic forecast came true, with a wave around that height hitting the nuclear power plant in 2011, triggering the reactor meltdowns.
The Fukushima nuclear plant was hit by an natural disaster and then a tsunami in 2011, causing a meltdown and radiation leaks.
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. 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 natural disaster striking the area over the next 30 years.
The lawyers for the plaintiffs welcomed the Friday court ruling, saying "It was extremely significant that (a court) has acknowledged the responsibility of the state", Kyodo news agency reported. The suit, which was filed in 2013, is one of 30 similar suits still pending in the Japanese court system. His child, who was three years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, received no compensation whatsoever.
"The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of quake victims nationwide", he said. Both the government and TEPCO attacked the reliability of the 2002 and 2008 studies, calling them unscientific and at odds with the opinions of other experts.
Tepco said no decision had been made yet on whether to appeal against the ruling, adding that it would consider how to respond after examining the decision.
It's been six years since 150,000 people were displaced when three nuclear reactors failed in Fukushima, Japan, after an natural disaster and tsunami hit the island nation on March 11, 2011.