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Issue #1799      October 18, 2017

Fukushima compensation

Fukushima District Court Judge Hideki Kanazawa said the government had failed to order Tepco to improve safety measures despite knowing as early as 2002 of a likelihood of a massive tsunami in the region.

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.

The court ordered payouts for 2,900 of the 3,800 plaintiffs, the largest group among about 30 similar lawsuits involving 12,000 people pending across Japan.

“The government’s inaction in exercising its regulatory authority [to order Tepco to take safety measures] was extremely unreasonable,” the judge said. It was the second judgement to hold the government accountable for the meltdown. Another dismissed claims against the state.

The court upheld the plaintiffs’ argument that the disaster could have been prevented if the economy and industry ministry had ordered Tepco to move emergency diesel generators from the basement to higher ground and make the reactor buildings watertight based on 2002 data that suggested there was a risk of a tsunami as high as 51 feet – the highest wave that hit was 43 feet high, overwhelming the 32-foot seawall.

It also upheld arguments by the plaintiffs that Tepco ignored another chance to take safety measures when a government study group warned in 2008 of a major tsunami triggering a power failure at the plant.

But the ruling rejected residents’ requests that the radiation levels be returned to levels before the accident.

Nuclear Regulation Authority spokesman Kazuhiro Okuma told reporters that the authority plans to discuss whether to appeal against the ruling with other government agencies.

Last week, Tepco was given its first approval to operate nuclear reactors since the Fukushima disaster. The regulation authority said it could operate two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in northern Japan, although it will receive opinions from the government and public before they can be restarted.

All 50 of Japan’s nuclear reactors were taken offline after the disaster but many were quickly restarted despite public opposition.

Morning Star

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