29 Février 2016
February 29, 2016
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will finally have to explain in court their actions--or inaction--in relation to the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant five years ago.
Court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors filed indictments at the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 29 against the three former executives on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69, are accused of failing to implement safety measures despite being aware of the possibility that such an accident could unfold at the utility’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The indictment says the three knew beforehand that a tsunami exceeding 10 meters could hit the plant, flood a reactor building, cause a loss of electric power, and lead to an explosion. But they still did not take adequate measures to safeguard the plant.
The Fukushima No. 1 plant is located 10 meters above sea level.
A tsunami greater than 10 meters did hit the plant site following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. The waves flooded reactor buildings, knocked out power and caused hydrogen gas explosions.
A number of patients at hospitals in the vicinity of the stricken nuclear plant died or were injured in the subsequent evacuation. The indictment said the three former executives should be held criminally responsibility for these deaths and injuries.
The three former executives are expected to plead innocent at their trial.
However, the trial is expected to bring into the open internal TEPCO documents that have not been released until now.
After a criminal complaint was submitted by residents and citizens groups, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office decided in September 2013 not to indict the former executives, citing the difficulty in predicting such an accident.
However, in July 2014, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution overrode the prosecutors’ decision and sent the case back to them for a further look.
But the prosecutors again decided not to indict the three.
In July 2015, the inquest committee handed down a second decision stating the three former executives should be indicted because “they bore the obligation to hold a high level of attention in order to prepare against the remote chance of an accident.”
Before they submitted the indictment to the court, the five court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors read over the former executives’ responses to questioning by prosecutors.
TEPCO issued a statement on Feb. 29 saying it would refrain from commenting on a legal case.
Three former executives of the Tokyo Electric Power Company have been indicted over the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Court-appointed lawyers indicted on Monday former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and 2 former vice presidents, Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto.
The 3 former executives have been charged with professional negligence resulting in death or injury.
The lawyers were named as prosecutors by the court.
In 2013, public prosecutors decided not to press charges against the 3. But a prosecution inquest panel of randomly selected citizens voted last year to indict them.
The indictment says the former executives could have predicted that the nuclear power plant would be inundated by tsunami waves, but they failed to take appropriate safety measures. It says this led to hydrogen explosions at several reactor buildings and resulted in the injury of 13 people.
The indictment also says the former executives forced patients and others to evacuate a hospital in Okuma Town. It says that as a result, the conditions of 44 people worsened and they died.
While addressing a Diet committee, Katsumata said he did not receive a briefing on the possibility of tsunami-triggered flooding, because the report stopped at the division in charge of nuclear power and plant operation.
Takekuro told the committee they did not take substantial measures because the possibility of a serious accident was calculated based on an assumption.
Muto said they believed standards discussed by experts were enough to ensure safety.
Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. were indicted Monday for allegedly failing to take measures to prevent the tsunami-triggered crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011.
The indictment, mandated by an independent panel of citizens after prosecutors decided against bringing charges, seeks to answer in court the question of whether the key Tepco figures should be held criminally responsible for the disaster.
The three executives facing charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury are Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, chairman of Tepco at the time, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.
The indictment blames them for injuries to 13 people, including Self-Defense Forces personnel, from hydrogen explosions at the plant, as well as the deaths of 44 patients forced to evacuate from a nearby hospital.
In a statement Monday, Tepco’s public relations office offered a renewed apology over the accident but declined to comment on the indictment because it concerns a criminal case.
The three executives were not taken into custody. They are likely to plead not guilty.
The crisis at the six-reactor plant on the Pacific coast started when tsunami triggered by the massive earthquake of March 11, 2011, flooded power supply facilities and crippled reactor cooling systems. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing reactors 1, 3 and 4.
The trial is expected to be long and is unlikely to start before the end of the year, as preparations to compile evidence and points of issue will require a considerable amount of time, sources familiar with the case said.
After prosecutors dropped their charges, the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, an independent committee of citizens, overturned the decision in July 2015, saying the three were responsible because they should have foreseen the risks of major tsunami prior to the disaster.
The prosecutors had determined it was hard for them to predict major tsunami.
The inquest committee has said the former executives received a report by June 2009 that the plant could be hit by tsunami as high as 15.7 meters and that they “failed to take pre-emptive measures knowing the risk of a major tsunami.”
A group of Fukushima residents and other people filed a criminal complaint in 2012 against dozens of government and Tepco officials over their responsibility in connection with the nuclear crisis.
But when the prosecutors decided not to file charges, including against then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the group narrowed its list of targets and asked the committee to examine whether the prosecutors’ decision was appropriate.