The only criminal prosecution related to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster ended today that the Tokyo District Court decided three former executives from Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) were found not guilty.
The verdict means no individuals would be criminally liable for one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters since Chernobyl.
The defendants, former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and vice-presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, were prosecuted for professional negligence resulting in death.
The prosecutors initially refused to bring charges. However, in an effort of the citizens, lawyers appointed by the court decided to indict them in 2016, saying that they could have prevented the disaster and thus seek a five-year jail term for each.
According to Bloomberg, the defense had argued that it was impossible to predict how severe the tsunami would damage the plant, saying the executives estimated the wave would be 13 meters higher. However, appointed lawyers pointed out other Tepco officials had already alerted that the wave could be as high as 15 meters.
The court said in a statement, “If you had to consider every possibility associated with tsunamis and be required to take necessary measures, it would be impossible to operate nuclear power plants.”
A magnitude 9 earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011, triggered a large-scale tsunami that engulfed the nuclear plant, knocking vital cooling systems down and causing the three reactor cores to meltdown. Forty-four patients in the nearby hospital died because the high-radiation caused the emergency crews couldn’t rescue them.
By Carol Kan