İrem UZUN -TDO- Three former executives of the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) have been cleared by the Japanese court eight years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It was the only criminal prosecution stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster which was the worst since Chernobyl in 1986.
While the accusations were stressing professional negligence resulting in death and injury, company’s legal team successfully argued that the company could not have anticipated that the earthquake would trigger the enormous tsunami waves that led to the failure of the reactor's cooling systems.
A 2008 government study had warned that tsunami waves 15.7 meters high could, at some point, hit the plant. The waves that in fact impacted Fukushima in 2011 were more than 10 meters, but less than 15 meters, in height. Government and parliamentary investigations also found that Tepco had a poor safety culture and weak risk management processes.
However, the three defendants argued that pre-disaster data provided to them proved unreliable and Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said experts were divided over evaluations of various tsunami predictions. Defense attorneys also said that even if the executives had taken related steps, such as building bigger seawalls, the disaster could not have been averted.
Shozaburo Ishida on the prosecution’s side argued that the judges favored the government’s stance on nuclear power. He also criticized the court’s rationale that nuclear power companies are not required to ensure complete safety.