Tepco, and state, responsible: Kan

No player exempt from nuclear crisis redress burden, as government promoted atomic power

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Naoto Kan acknowledged the government bears some responsibility for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis.

In Diet deliberations on the first supplementary budget of fiscal 2011 aimed at reconstructing disaster-hit areas in Tohoku, Kan promised victims, as well as those in the farming and fishing industries, that the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. would compensate them.

“It goes without saying the primary responsibility lies with Tepco, but the government, which has been promoting nuclear power plants, cannot be exempt from responsibility,” Kan said.

The nuclear damage compensation law stipulates that operators will be exempt from payment if “the damage is caused by a grave natural disaster of an exceptional character or by an insurrection.”

Tepco President Masataka Shimizu said Thursday he considered an exemption to be possible based on this stipulation.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano firmly rejected the idea, stressing that the possibility of a major tsunami seriously damaging power plants had been pointed out during previous Diet deliberations.

“The dangers of a big tsunami leading to an accident had been raised in the Diet,” Edano told reporters. “Despite this, Tepco did not take sufficient measures. I think I can say quite clearly it will not be exempt (from damages).”

Also at Friday’s budget committee session, Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Kiyohito Hashimoto proposed toll-free highways in Tohoku.

“I would like to consider (the proposal) as a very good choice to rehabilitate the whole Tohoku region and to create a vigorous east Japan,” Kan said.