TOKYO – A district court in Fukushima prefecture ruled on Tuesday that the government and the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant are liable for negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
This is the third ruling by a Japanese court in which Tepco Electric Power Co. was declared guilty of lack of foresight and the second which holds the central government responsible.
The judges ruled in favor of the 3,800 plaintiffs – the largest group among 30 similar lawsuits involving 12,000 Fukushima evacuees across the country – saying they believed the government and Tepco should have taken more measures to prevent the 2011 catastrophe, according to the text of the ruling published by local agency Kyodo.
The plaintiffs used as evidence a seismic report written up by a government body in 2002, which said there was a 20 percent chance of a magnitude-8.0 earthquake striking near the plant and subsequently triggering a tsunami.
The plaintiffs, including those living near the nuclear power plant who were forced to leave their homes after the accident, asked Tepco and the government to pay a monthly sum of 50,000 yen ($444) until radiation in the affected areas returns to levels existing before the catastrophe.
However, the court ordered the government and Tepco to pay a fixed amount of 500 million yen ($4,448,160), to be distributed among the plaintiffs, saying decontamination work in the area surrounding Fukushima could take several decades.
The total cost of dismantling the plant and paying compensation to those affected by the accident will exceed 20 trillion yen, according to a report by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry made public in March.
In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, the Fukushima plant had suffered the worst nuclear disaster (since the one at Chernobyl in 1986), that had displaced thousands of people and adversely affected local businesses.