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Indict Tepco execs over disaster: judicial panel

Kyodo

A judicial panel of citizens said Thursday it has decided that three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. merit indictment over the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The 11-member Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution voted that Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tepco at the time of the disaster, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, should be indicted.

The panel said the former executives had failed to take sufficient crisis management steps to ensure safety despite the possibility that a massive tsunami could trigger an unprecedented accident.

A group of Fukushima residents and others had filed criminal complaints against the Tepco executives for alleged professional negligence resulting in death and injury in connection with the nuclear plant disaster.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office decided last September not to indict former leaders of the Fukushima plant operator, saying it was difficult to foresee the scale of the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that triggered the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

But around 5,700 people, including Fukushima residents affected by the nuclear crisis, were dissatisfied with the prosecutors’ decision and asked the inquest panel to review the case last October.

With the latest decision, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office is expected to resume investigations into the three former officials. If it decides not to indict them or does not announce a decision within three months, the prosecution inquest panel will discuss the case once again.

Katsumata and the two others will face mandatory indictment should the panel decide again that they merit indictment.

Tepco said in a statement that it stands ready to cooperate with investigations “sincerely” if requested.

“It is an appropriate decision. It is an extremely touching judgment,” Hiroyuki Kawai, an attorney representing those who sought a review of the prosecutors’ judgment on six former Tepco executives including Katsumata, Muto and Takekuro told a press conference.

The group argued the executives continued the operation of the Fukushima plant without implementing necessary safety measures, forcing many residents to be exposed to radiation and causing the deaths of patients and the elderly under severe conditions following the nuclear crisis.Of the other three, the panel said Akio Komori, former managing director, merits reinvestigation, while it decided Norio Tsuzumi and Toshiaki Enomoto, both former vice presidents, do not merit indictment.

“I am so happy and can’t put it into words. I think the members of the Tokyo prosecution inquest panel judged the case sincerely as consumers of electricity produced by Tepco,” said Ayako Oga, 41, an evacuee from Fukushima.

“I want the prosecutors to listen to Fukushima residents affected by the accident and indict them (the Tepco officials),” Oga said.

Miwa Chiwaki, 44, secretariat chief of the group said, “I cannot believe that nobody has taken responsibility for the accident.”

Concerning the Fukushima accident, then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other former government officials were also accused of bearing responsibility.

But the prosecutors dropped the case last year and a judicial panel supported their decision.

  • phu

    Let’s be honest: This is a witch hunt, people who simply want someone to hold responsible ignoring the reality of the disaster that actually CAUSED the failure at the plant.

    Yes, you can reasonably say that almost every person who had the sway to push more thorough safety precautions on Tepco is in some degree culpable for the failure of its backup and safety systems. But in the face of an admittedly unprecedented natural disaster, it’s extremely disingenuous to actually demand punishment, particularly on just a few of the people who might have contributed to the failure.

    The problems are systemic. Blaming individuals ignores the larger problems and allows them to continue.

    • warota

      So what are you saying? Nothing should be done?

      No one is trying to ignore the reality of the disaster except for apologists and people who are actually responsible for what happened.

      The disaster was unprecedented but not unpredicted. People have been talking for years about corners cut, covered up accidents, and the possible effects of such a disaster given current conditions at the plant. Then it actually happened and management trouts out that it was unexpected.

      It shouldn’t even stop here. What about all of the pro-nuclear LDP who pushed for this in the first place? And the atomic regulatory agency who rubber stamped the negligence leading to the accident becoming a lot worse than it could have?

      • phu

        No, I’m saying -relevant- things should be done. Safety regulations should be vetted internationally and actually enforced. Nuclear power should be used responsibly.

        If there is truly definitive, clear evidence against certain people or organizations that can be used to reach appropriate, well-defined criminal verdicts, then fine.

        My argument, though, is that the future is more important than the past. Yes, it’d be nice if everyone who ever did anything wrong reaped what they’d sown. That’s not how the world works, though, and while the idealist in me would love to see justice here (though even defining that in a concrete way would be difficult), a more realistic course of action is to look forward and try to make Japanese nuclear power safe instead of wasting time punishing people for what’s already happened.

        No, the pro-nuclear LDP absolutely should not be punished for this; they most certainly did not push for a nuclear meltdown. They pushed for nuclear power; the two are not the same, despite what activists would have you think. Yes, ideally, regulators who took bribes or simply failed to do their jobs should be taken to task. In that respect, I don’t think you and I really disagree.

        But that -solves- nothing. The solution is fixing the system that allows these people to keep endangering the public, and when all the energy going into this situation is wrapped up in attacking Tepco executives, no real, lasting good is being done.

        Continuing the witch hunt all the way up the chain wouldn’t help even if you were right. File all the lawsuits you want; it doesn’t help anyone. If you actually want to do some good, your only chance of improving things is to fix the oversight failures — intentional and otherwise — that resulted in the faulty safety measures which were, in part, to blame for the ongoing nuclear disaster.

        Of course, this STILL ignores the fact that the disaster I referred to — the natural one — was indeed unprecedented. Even if there had been excellent failsafes in place, it’s entirely possible this would have simply been too much for what could, previously, have rationally been considered adequate safety standards.

        But I get the impression that you, like the people instigating these suits, don’t really care about that. Sometimes disasters happen and there’s no one who’s actually responsible, but we’ve passed the point where people can accept even those. Someone has to pay!

      • warota

        Safety regulations weren’t being followed and weren’t actually enforced. Nuclear power wasn’t being used responsibility hence holding the people in charge responsible. Common sense (no matter how rare it is in this world).

        These suits are intended to investigate just how much each of them were responsible which will also bring to light how this can be prevented in the future. I don’t understand why think this can’t happen in parallel along with cleaning up the mess they’ve left behind.

        Now let’s address your strawmen.

        I never said the pro-nuclear LDP pushed for a nuclear meltdown. No one would do that unless they wanted to create a situation where you could use that as a strawman. The ones who took bribes and participated in amakudari in exchange for lax oversight etc. are the ones are exactly the ones I’m talking about that you think should be taken to task. I don’t even know what you’re even trying to say here.

        Again, no one is ignoring that this disaster wasn’t unprecedented. And way to completely ignore what I said about people complaining corners cut, covered up accidents and the possible effects of such a disaster given current conditions at the plant which all happened as predicted. Perhaps if they had enacted the suggested failsafes and they indeed failed during the disaster then you might have something to complain about instead of trotting out your fictional scenario. In all likelihood? They would have likely helped lessen the effect of the disaster on the plant than the crapstorm that actually resulted. “World class safety standards” was what was trotted about right?

        I don’t know how you think I only care about making people pay and not fixing the problems of safety you are complaining about. The technology, knowhow and ability to enact the appropriate safeguards were there. Various high profile actors colluded to legitimize not having to implement them in spite of claims to the contrary. These suits are addressing exactly where the problems are and it is only natural that their targets pay. I’d take this as a chance to reverse your accusations of not caring but I’d then I’d be beating a strawman as you seem to like doing.

      • Sasori

        ‘internationally’!?
        Fat chamce in hell.

  • xexon

    It’s about time.

    I do understand the overwhelming circumstances of this disaster. But that is not an excuse for all the lying and obfuscation that has gone on since.

    When a ship runs aground you don’t blame the cook, you blame the captain. Japan glows with radioactivity from one end to the other. A whole generation of children are in danger of having the DNA damaged. Whole towns abandoned.

    Now let the heads roll.

    x

    • phu

      “Japan glows with radioactivity from one end to the other. A whole generation of children are in danger of having the DNA damaged. Whole towns abandoned.”

      Oh for the love of… do people really just not care about their own credibility any more, or do you not even think about the things you’re typing? You go from rational and valid criticism of the incredible misreporting that went on after the tsunami to OMG RADIATIONS EVERYONE IS DYING JAPAN IS GHOST TOWN.

      Let the heads roll, indeed. Let’s start with whoever was supposed to teach you critical thinking. Pathetic…

      • xexon

        What are you, a TEPCO antibody?

        I know enough about the long term effects of radiation to know this story is far from over. And you are aware that children absorb radiation much more intensely than adults?

        You should google all the birth defects that occured after Chernobyl.

        And as I live on the west coast of the US, we are also concerned about all the radioactive water that STILL flows into the ocean, and in my direction.

        Like I said, this isn’t over.

        x

      • phu

        Yep, because I find your lack of logic grotesque, I’m definitely just a TEPCO troll. Good work on that one. Also, perhaps you should google the definition of hyperbole.

        No, it’s not over. And there most certainly is and has been an unacceptable amount of radiation released from Fukushima. That does not, however, warrant your ridiculous fearmongering. Nor does equating this to Chernobyl really help anyone.

        Your concern about radiation crossing the ocean, warranted or not, says nothing about the actual radiation or its actual or potential effects. And no, radiation is not absorbed more “intensely” by children, though it does have a greater effect on their thyroids. Again, the fact that there is a danger does not warrant skewing it or coming up with your own “facts” based loosely on reality.

        But hey, don’t let me get in the way of your lynch mob. You can’t or won’t step back from your own petty fear of radiation — you frame the issue based on your potential exposure, which is telling — so by all means, keep jerking that knee.

        As an aside, I’m not quite sure who writes your comments (as they’re so long and well-considered), so could you please make sure to stick your pseudonym’s initial at the bottom? It’s not at all narcissistic, and I’m sure the entire world needs that reminder. It definitely helps me put your carefully crafted and researched opinions in the very serious context they deserve. Thanks!

      • Sasori

        Petty fear of radiation?
        What a bizarre combination of words.

  • Tando

    The problem in Japan is that there is a blown up bureaucracy, which gives you a hard time when you apply for anything but their responsibility ends if formal proceedings are done. There is hardly any control or enforcement of the rules. Build a house and they want to know every detail at the beginning. But once the final acceptance of construction is done you bring back the craftsmen and complete the house according to your own wishes. If you want to hold a public event selling food and drinks, you have to list up every little ingredient, where and when you bought it or how you prepare the food. But nobody ever checks it. The fodstalls at traditional Japanese festivals by the way, run by socalled “tekiya” don´t have to go through these application procedures, because they are connected with the Yakusa. A while ago it was anounced, that cycling on the right side would be fined, but have you seen any change or police enforcing these rules. There are two conclusions, being connected to a powefull organisation can help you to get around the rules and/or just do the paper work according to the regulations and get away with anything knowing that nobody ever checks it.
    In the case of Tepco the same things apply. Safety flaws were pointed out before the desaster, but it was left to the company to do something about it without any checks.

  • mikethurgood

    The basic problem goes back far longer in time than TEPCO’s contemporary management, when considerations about the site for Fukushima 1 were being deliberated, especially the low lying land adjacent to the sea.

    But there was one aspect about which I wasn’t aware until I read about it in a UN report last week, that three new emergency diesel generators had been installed a few years ago on higher ground, which would have withstood the tsunami – except for a disastrous oversight: The electrical switching equipment was left in its original low-lying locations. Now, who was responsible for that oversight?

    One further point, about the effects of ionizing radiations on children. Yes, they are more susceptible than adults, but primarily where cancers are concerned. And one respondent mentioned thyroid cancer. The respondent who mentioned appalling effects on body organs didn’t appreciate that this refers to the foetal stage of human development, at the actual time when the cellular tissue organ arrangements are at their most critical point, ensuring that a normal individual develops in the womb. Ionizing radiations at that stage would be expected to cause malfunctions, resulting in many still born births. But that is definitely not the same as a child a few years old in whom most, but obviously not all, of whose internal organs are properly developed – in miniature, of course.

    With my knowledge of nuclear power and the effects of ionizing radiations on humans – albeit now being long in retirement – if I was a member of the population adjoining Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, I would most likely be campaigning against the TEPCO management being indicted for negligence, because a far more important aspect to campaign for, if nuclear power is really going to be restarted in Japan, is to make sure that there’s no utility that isn’t fully aware of its responsibilities to the public, and that all safety measures that are considered to be necessary by the examining nuclear safety specialists – international specialists, too, if necessary – are implemented before the restartup of any of the reactors.

    I live about 22 km from the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station.

    Mike Thurgood, Cape Town, South Africa

  • mikethurgood

    My apologies for a silly mistake in my first post. Obviously I meant that I would not, repeat, not be campaigning for the present TEPCO management to be indicted, but for the government to appreciate the vital importance of nuclear safety measures to safeguard the general public.

    Please don’t forget that your nuclear plants ran quite successfully, with no major – please note – incidents which, as far as I am aware released any radioactive materials into the environment. There was one criticality incident at a research facility – forgotten the details. .