Sendai – The Sendai High Court on Wednesday ordered the state and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to pay ¥1 billion ($9.5 million) in damages to residents over the 2011 earthquake- and tsunami-triggered disaster.
It was the first time a high court has acknowledged the state’s responsibility for the incident in about 30 similar lawsuits filed nationwide.
The Sendai court told the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay about ¥1.01 billion to 3,550 out of some 3,650 plaintiffs, up from the sum of ¥500 million that a lower court ordered them to pay to around 2,900 plaintiffs in an October 2017 ruling.
In line with the 2017 ruling by the Fukushima District Court, the high court made its decision based on three points in dispute, including whether a major tsunami could have been foreseen.
The two other points were whether countermeasures could have been implemented to prevent a disaster, and whether the compensation levels outlined by the government were sufficient.
The plaintiffs had sought monthly compensation payments of around ¥50,000 per person until radiation at their residences returns to the pre-crisis level, bringing their total final demand to approximately ¥28 billion.
The state, meanwhile, argued it was impossible to predict the tsunami and prevent the subsequent disaster. Tepco claimed it had already paid compensation in accordance with government guidelines.
In the district court ruling, the government and Tepco were both blamed for failing to take steps to counter the huge tsunami.
It ruled that the two should have been able to foresee the risks of a maximum 15.7-meter-high wave, based on a quake assessment issued in 2002, and that the disaster could have been prevented if the state had instructed the operator to implement measures that year.
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Tohoku on March 11, 2011, causing multiple meltdowns and hydrogen blasts at the nuclear power plant.
Around 55,000 people remained evacuated both within and outside Fukushima Prefecture as of the end of August.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority issued a comment that said, “We will consider appropriate ways to respond while closely examining the ruling and consulting with relevant authorities.”
Tepco said in a statement, “We deeply apologize again for causing great trouble and worries to the people of Fukushima Prefecture and the whole of society because of the nuclear power plant accident. We will closely examine the ruling by the Sendai High Court and consider ways to respond.”
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