National / Crime & Legal

Prosecutors appeal acquittal of former Tepco execs over Fukushima nuclear disaster

Kyodo

An appeal has been filed with the Tokyo High Court challenging the acquittal of three former Tepco executives over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

“Letting this decision stand is clearly against justice. Taking into consideration the burden of the victims, it is incumbent on us to demand a judgment by a higher court,” one of the court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors said when the appeal was filed Monday.

They had sought five-year prison sentences for the former executives of what is now called Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and former Vice Presidents Ichiro Takekuro, 73, and Sakae Muto, 69, were acquitted Sept. 19 by the Tokyo District Court on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

They were indicted in 2016 for failing to implement tsunami countermeasures, leading to the deaths of 44 people, including patients forced to evacuate from a hospital, as well as for injuries sustained by 13 people in hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station.

Prosecutors claimed the three would have prevented the disaster if they had fulfilled their responsibility to collect information and implement safety measures. Tepco was informed in 2008 that tsunami of up to 15.7 meters could strike the plant based on a 2002 government long-term evaluation of quake risks.

At the district court, presiding Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said in handing down the ruling, “It would be impossible to operate a nuclear plant if operators were obliged to predict every possibility related to tsunami and take necessary measures.”

The six-reactor plant on the Pacific coast was flooded on March 11, 2011, by tsunami exceeding 10 meters triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply.

Reactor units 1, 2 and 3 suffered core meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing reactors 1, 3 and 4. Around 160,000 people were evacuated at one point.

Tepco and the attorneys representing the three former executives declined to comment on the appeal.

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