A court in Tokyo on Wednesday, July 13, sentenced four former officials of TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) to 13,000 billion yen (95 billion euros). Justice believes the power company failed to prevent the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, according to local media. “The sense of security and responsibility required for a nuclear operator was essentially missing.”the judge considered, citing Japanese public television channel NHK.
This decision is the culmination of legal action launched by Tepco shareholders in 2012. This is the first time that former leaders of the group have been held responsible for the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, which occurred after a massive tsunami.
As they left the court, the plaintiffs held up signs that read: “Recognized Responsibility” or Shareholders won.. In a statement, they specified the total amount of damages ordered by the court.
Shareholders argued that the disaster could have been avoided if Tepco managers had responded to reports calling for precautionary measures against the tidal wave, such as installing emergency power systems at a higher altitude. Central, located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, in the northeast of Japan.
Many legal procedures
Three of the plant’s six reactors – Units 1, 2 and 3 – were operating when the tsunami, following a powerful undersea earthquake, swept through on March 11, 2011. Their cooling systems failed when the emergency generators were flooded by waves, causing the cores of all three reactors to melt.
Hydrogen explosions also occurred in reactors 1, 3 and 4, causing severe damage. The decontamination and decommissioning work of the plant is expected to take several more decades.
“Once again we express our sincerest apologies to the people of Fukushima and society in general.” A TEPCO spokesperson told AFP on Wednesday about the damage and concerns this disaster has caused, but declined to comment on the court’s decision.
Since the Fukushima accident, Tepco has faced numerous legal actions, including from residents forced to evacuate the area due to radiation, sometimes in very difficult circumstances.
In 2019, three former Tepco executives prosecuted by evacuees from the area were acquitted. Those former presidents, who were acquitted at the time — former Tepco board chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro — are among the four who were convicted in civil proceedings on Wednesday, along with another former company executive, Masataka Shimizu.