Court clears energy bosses over Fukushima meltdown

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 20 Sep 2019

A Japanese court cleared three energy firm bosses of professional negligence in the only criminal trial stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The three men were senior officials at the TEPCO firm operating the Fukushima Daiichi plant and had faced up to five years in prison if convicted.

The judge ruled that the executives could not have predicted the scale of the tsunami that overwhelmed the plant and triggered the accident. The decision is likely to be appealed, extending the legal wrangling over responsibility for the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

The defendants - former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 69, and Ichiro Takekuro, 73 - were accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury for failing to act on information about the risks from a major tsunami. They argued the data available to them at the time was unreliable.

Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said the verdict turned on the "predictability" of the tsunami that swamped the nuclear plant in March 2011 after a 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake.

He pointed out there had been no proposal from the government's nuclear watchdog "that TEPCO should suspend operations until [safety] measures are taken."

The defendants faced trial in relation to the deaths of more than 40 people who died after being evacuated following the nuclear disaster.

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