The victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster felt real relief at the announcement of the judgment on appeal on September 30, affirming the equal responsibility of the Japanese state and the Tokyo Electricity Company (Tepco) in the tragedy caused by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
“Today, I want to go home and drink sake in front of my father’s portrait”, told the daily Mainichi, Kazuya Tarukawa, a resident of Sukagawa, a small town in the department of Fukushima (northeast) 80 kilometers from the power plant, and one of the 3,650 plaintiffs who initiated the proceedings. His father committed suicide at the end of March 2011, when the authorities banned him from selling his organic rice and vegetables because of radioactive fallout.
The judgment of the Sendai (northeast) High Court, which ordered a total of 1.01 billion yen (8.2 million euros) in restitution to 3,550 of the plaintiffs, is based on an assessment of the risk of powerful earthquakes, carried out in 2002 by the Ministry of Science. According to this study, the department of Fukushima could be affected by a tsunami of 15.7 meters.
Both the government and Tepco are said to have been negligent in not implementing the necessary preventive measures. “The regulatory authority has therefore not fulfilled the role expected of it”, ruled the court. The tsunami of March 2011 caused the merger of three of the six reactors at the Fukushima plant.
Create a precedent
“It is an unprecedented decision which highlights the refusal of the government and Tepco to consider the data they did not want to see”, notes Totaro Hatamura, from the University of Tokyo, who led one of the investigations into the Fukushima disaster. The government has always claimed that it could not prevent either the tsunami or the nuclear accident. Like Tepco, he wishes “Analyze the verdict” before “Consider a response”.
Sendai’s decision is more severe than the one handed down in 2017 at first instance, which insisted on Tepco’s responsibility. It could set a precedent for the thirty or so procedures underway across the country. “The plaintiffs in the other trials provided similar testimony. The recent trend in courts rejecting their complaints could be reversed ”, says Masafumi Yokemoto, an environmental policy specialist at Osaka University.
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