• Kyodo

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The Tokyo High Court on Friday ordered both the government and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to pay damages to people who had to evacuate as a result of the crisis, but lowered the amount of compensation they are due to receive.

The ruling overturns a lower court decision that had dismissed the state’s responsibility for the 2011 nuclear crisis.

The Tokyo High Court ordered the state to cover the total damages of ¥278 million together with Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., following the precedent set by the Sendai High Court last September.

It marked the third high court ruling among 30 similar lawsuits filed across the country, and the second in which both the state and the utility were ordered to pay damages over radioactive contamination following the meltdowns at the plant.

Presiding Judge Yukio Shiraishi said it was “extremely unreasonable” for the government not to use its regulatory power to force the operator, Tepco, to take preventive measures against the tsunami that triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

If it had done so, “the impact of the tsunami would have been significantly reduced, and the facility would not have lost all power,” he said.

The court also ruled that the evacuees should be compensated for their mental distress, in addition to the ¥100,000 per month to be awarded to them as consolation for their prolonged evacuation.

In a lawsuit filed with the Chiba District Court, 45 people collectively sought around ¥2.8 billion in damages from the government and the plant operator after they were forced to move from Fukushima Prefecture to Chiba Prefecture.

In 2017, the district court told Tepco to pay a total of ¥376 million to 42 of the evacuees, but cleared the state of liability, prompting the plaintiffs to appeal the decision.

The focal point of the lower court case was whether the government and utility were able to foresee the huge tsunami that hit the coastal plant on March 11, 2011, and take preventive measures beforehand based on the government’s long-term earthquake assessment that was made public in 2002.

The Chiba court ruled that both the state and Tepco could have predicted the tsunami, but the accident may have been unavoidable even if preventive steps had been taken.

In contrast with Friday’s ruling, the district court ruled the government’s failure to exercise regulatory power to force Tepco to take preventive measures was “not unreasonable.”

The latest decision was also in stark contrast to the Tokyo High Court’s ruling last month that the government was not responsible for the nuclear disaster in a suit filed by plaintiffs who evacuated to Gunma Prefecture and elsewhere.

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