Some 1,400 people have filed a joint lawsuit against three companies that manufactured the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, saying they should be financially liable for damage caused by its 2011 meltdowns.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said that the lawsuit, filed Thursday at the Tokyo District Court, is a landmark challenge of current regulations that give manufacturers immunity from liability in nuclear accidents.
Under the nuclear damages compensation scheme, only plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been held responsible for the crisis.
The plaintiffs, which include 38 Fukushima residents and nearly 400 others from around the world, argue that Toshiba, GE and Hitachi failed to make needed safety improvements to the four-decade-old reactors at the Fukushima plant. They are seeking compensation of ¥100 each, saying the idea is to raise awareness of the problem.
All three companies declined comment on the lawsuit.
Akihiro Shima, a head lawyer for the group, said the manufacturers so far have not been held responsible “and their names are not even mentioned.” The lawsuit is intended to bring attention to the problems of the system that is also protecting the nuclear industry around the world, he said.
Several accident investigation reports, including one published by a Diet-appointed panel, have generally agreed that the tsunami of March 11, 2011, was the primary cause of the disaster, but also criticized Tepco’s underestimation of tsunami damage and collusion between regulators and the industry.
Fukushima No. 1 has largely been stabilized since the accident, but Tepco continues to struggle with massive amounts of contaminated water leaks. The decommissioning of four reactors, including three with melted cores, is unprecedented in terms of its extent and complexity, and could take decades.
The four reactors all started running in the 1970s. Reactor 1 was built by GE, reactor 3 by Toshiba and reactor 4 by Hitachi. Reactor 2 was a GE-Toshiba joint project.