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Ex-Tepco chief quizzed on suspected negligence over nuclear disaster

Kyodo

Prosecutors have questioned Tsunehisa Katsumata, former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co., for alleged professional negligence in connection with the triple-meltdown catastrophe at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant that occurred in March 2011, investigative sources said Thursday.

The prosecutors apparently focused on Tepco’s disaster defenses at the plant, which was crippled by monster tsunami, and whether the utility had properly anticipated such a disaster.

Katsumata served as Tepco president between 2002 and 2008 and as its chairman between 2008 and 2012. He left Tepco’s board of directors last June.

The prosecutors are expected to decide this spring whether to file criminal charges against Katsumata, the sources said.

But many prosecutors believe it would be difficult to file such charges, the sources said, noting that the nuclear disaster came about after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, and that it is difficult to establish any causal relationship between the calamity and the deaths and injuries of some evacuees.

The prosecutors accepted a criminal complaint last August from a group of 1,300 citizens against about 40 people. Among them were Naoto Kan, the prime minister at the time of 3/11, Katsumata, and Haruki Madarame, then-chairman of the now-defunct Nuclear Safety Commission.

The complainants argue that the accused failed to give due consideration and care, causing evacuees, including those who were hospitalized, to die in the process of relocation and many others to suffer injuries and exposure to radiation.

Tokyo and Fukushima prosecutors have been investigating the complaint.

The Penal Code sets penalties of imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of ¥1 million for those who fail to exercise due care required in the pursuit of social activities and thereby cause death or injury.