Criminal charges against TEPCO executives a step forward for Fukushima victims

The decision to indict executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) today for their failure to take protective measures preventing the meltdown of the three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi is a major step forward for the people of Japan and a warning that Japan should phase out nuclear entirely.

“The people of Fukushima and Japan deserve justice. The court proceedings that will now follow should reveal the true extent of TEPCO’s and the Japanese regulatory system’s enormous failure to protect the people of Japan,” said Hisayo Takada, Deputy Program Director, Greenpeace Japan. “TEPCO and the Japanese regulator continue to ignore demands to disclose key details of what they know about the causes of the accident. The hundred thousand people who still can’t return home deserve to have all the facts.”

TEPCO failed to take any action to protect the Fukushima Daiichi plant from the predicted higher maximum tsunami before the March 2011 accident, despite knowing the reactor site was vulnerable. In July 2015, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution announced its decision that former Tokyo Electric Power Co. Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two other former company executives “should be indicted” in connection with the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The court decided at the time that TEPCO should have seen the risks.

In 2008, TEPCO produced an internal report that predicted a maximum credible tsunami of 15.7 metres. However, they continued to insist publicly that the maximum height of a tsunami would be eight meters above sea level and therefore a tsunami would not reach the nuclear plant. The Fukushima nuclear power plant sits at a height of 10 metres above sea level, while cooling pumps for the reactors were located at four metres above sea level.

“Five years since the Fukushima accident began, Japan’s nuclear regulator is repeating the same kind of mistakes that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Last week, the plutonium-fueled Takahama 4 reactor was restarted, just days after a radioactive leak in the primary coolant system,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

“Japan’s nuclear regulator continues to look the other way on major safety issues. The government continues to press ahead with nuclear restarts despite unresolved safety problems that put the public at risk. It’s time to break free from nuclear and embrace the only safe and clean technology that can meet Japan’s needs – renewable energy.”

In addition to this latest leak in the primary coolant loop, there are multiple other outstanding safety issues at both the Takahama 3 and 4 reactors. In January the Nuclear Regulatory Authority admitted that it did not know if critical safety-related electric cabling met fire safety standards – an issue that can pose a significant risk for reactor core meltdown.

A Greenpeace Japan radiation survey team is currently operating in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Fukushima to investigate the impacts of radiation on the marine environment.

This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.