Three Tepco execs again dodge indictment over meltdown disaster


The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office dismissed a case Thursday against three former senior executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. again over their alleged negligence for failing to prevent the March 2011 tsunami-triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The prosecutor’s office cited a lack of sufficient evidence following its six-month reinvestigation, which was conducted after a special prosecution inquest panel ruled last July that the three should be charged with professional negligence leading to death and injury.

The three are former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 74, former Executive Vice President Sakae Muto, 64, and Ichiro Takekuro, 68.

The rarely used inquest panel, made up of members of the public, was activated after the prosecutor’s office’s issued its first decision against their indictment in 2013.

Despite the latest decision, however, the three could still be indicted forcibly by court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors if the inquest panel seeks indictments for a second time. If that happens, it will be the first time anyone has been tried for a crime related to the nuclear disaster.

In the second investigation, the prosecutor’s office carried out fresh interviews with nuclear engineering, earthquake and tsunami experts to determine whether the former executives could have believed the tsunami risk and taken countermeasures.

While the prosecution inquest panel’s July ruling focused on the fact that the utility itself estimated in 2008 that the plant could be hit by tsunami as high as 15.7 meters, the prosecutors concluded that the impact of the March 2011 tsunami far exceeded that estimate and was hard to predict.

They also judged that it would have been difficult to prevent the disaster even if the utility had taken countermeasures as recommended by the inquest panel, the same conclusion they made in 2013.

Four unrevised reactor cooling systems at the six-reactor Fukushima No. 1 plant were knocked out by the huge tsunami triggered by the offshore March 2011 mega-quake. The two reactors that were built based on revised designs to protect against tsunami survived.