Prosecutors open criminal probes over Fukushima meltdown disaster


Prosecutors opened converging criminal probes Wednesday into the March 2011 triple-meltdown disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, looking to hold people in positions of power accountable, including then Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office and two other district prosecutor’s offices acted in response to five criminal complaints, including accusations that Tepco executives and government officials committed acts of professional negligence that resulted in deaths, injuries and exposure to high levels of radiation that could have been avoided, sources said.

The other investigative tacks were initiated by the Fukushima District Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Kanazawa District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Ishikawa Prefecture.

The prosecutors waited until a government investigative panel released its final report on the crisis on July 23 to avoid influencing the results. But the prosecutors may face a number of difficulties in establishing their cases, the sources said.

The Tokyo prosecutors accepted three criminal complaints, including one that accuses 26 senior officials of Tepco and the education ministry of actions that resulted in the deaths of hospital patients near the plant and the unnecessary exposure of residents to radiation.

The number of victims was not specified. It is believed some bedridden hospital patients died from lack of proper treatment in the early days of the radiation evacuation scare when some were allegedly abandoned.

Another complaint accuses six government officials, including Kan, of failing to act quickly to ensure that radioactive steam was vented from the containment vessel of the plant’s reactor 1, leading to hydrogen explosions that injured plant workers.

The Fukushima prosecutors accepted a complaint in which some 1,300 prefectural residents accuse 33 people, including former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and Haruki Madarame, chairman of the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission, of negligence in connection with the disaster, which another, Diet-appointed independent panel concluded was effectively “man-made,” particularly because the power plant lacked the quake and tsunami defenses that historical evidence indicated it required.