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Former Fukushima executives ordered to pay £80 billion in fines

19 July 2022

A Tokyo district court ordered former executives of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay 13 trillion yen (£80bn) in damages on July 13 for failing to prevent the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. The court judged that the four defendants, including Tepco’s President at the time of the disaster, could have prevented the incident had they “exercised due care”.

Image: IAEA
Image: IAEA

The four defendants found liable are unlikely to be able to pay the damages, however they will be expected to pay as much as their assets allow. A fifth defendant in the case, which was filed back in 2012 by 48 Tepco shareholders, was not found liable for damages. The Tepco shareholders who filed the lawsuit had been seeking around 22 trillion yen in damages. The Tokyo district court ruling focused on whether the former Tepco executives could have predicted a serious nuclear accident occurring at the Fukushima plant after a tsunami.

The lawsuit is the first time that company executives have been found liable for damages relating to the 2011 disaster. The compensation is also believed to be the largest amount ever awarded in a civil lawsuit in Japan.

The Fukushima disaster on 11 March 2011 occurred after an earthquake triggered a tsunami which killed 18,000 people along Japan’s northeast coast. The Fukushima plant, which is located around 150 miles (241km) north of Tokyo, suffered meltdowns in three of its six reactors after the tsunami struck and flooded the facility’s backup generators. The disaster was the worst nuclear power incident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Although no one was killed as a result of the meltdown, the long-term effects of the radiation remain unclear.

The Tepco shareholders argued in the Tokyo district court that the disaster could have been prevented if Tepco executives at the time had listened to research and carried out preventative measures. Although Tepco has said it did everything it could to protect the plant and that it was powerless to take precautions against a tsunami of the size that struck in 2011, an internal document revealed in 2015 showed that the company had been aware of the need to improve the facility’s defences against tsunamis as early as 2009.

The Tokyo court ruled that plant operators have an obligation to prevent severe accidents based on the latest scientific and expert engineering knowledge and that the executive had failed to listen to the warnings.

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