Source: China State Council Information Office
The Tokyo District Court on Thursday ruled that three former executives at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) were not guilty of negligence in failing to prevent the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and ex-vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro, 73, and Sakae Muto, 69, were acquitted after arguing they could not have anticipated a tsunami the size of the one that knocked-out the key cooling functions at the Daiichi nuclear power plant and caused core meltdowns.
In 2013, public prosecutors did not indict the three executives, however a citizens panel thereafter voted that they should face trial and the three were indicted in 2016 by court-appointed lawyers for professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
They were indicted for failing to implement countermeasures that could have lessened the devastating impact of the earthquake-triggered tsunami, which left 44 people at the plant dead and a number of people injured by hydrogen explosions that ensued at the battered plant.
If the executives at the time had collated information and implemented safety protocols as part of their responsibilities, the nuclear disaster, the world’s worst since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, could have been prevented, the court-appointed lawyers said, seeking five-year prison terms for the defendants.
The trial’s main focus was on whether the trio should have been able to predict that a massive tsunami could theoretically strike the Pacific Ocean-facing facility.
The executives had been given a long-term government estimate in 2002 concerning risks from earthquakes that had calculated that a tsunami with waves as high as 15.7 meters could feasibly hit the plant, with the estimates reported to TEPCO in 2008, three years before the disaster struck.
The executives’ defense team, however, argued that the trio could not have foreseen a tsunami of such a size hitting the plant based on the government’s evaluation.
The executives apparently did not believe that government’s long-term evaluation of earthquake risks and found the information to be unreliable, the defense team argued, and that building coastal levees to protect the nuclear facility from large tsunami waves not necessary.
When it came to light that a subordinate to the executives calculated that a massive tsunami could in fact hit the plant with devastating effects, the lawyers in the case said that the executives at that time should have taken the plants’ reactors offline.
Again, considering the information unreliable, the executives sought advice from the Japan Society of Civil Engineers that ultimately failed to prevent the the six-reactor plant from suffering core meltdowns after having its vital cooling systems knocked out by tsunami waves on March 11, 2011, leading to the evacuation of 160,000 people at the peak of the crisis.