09/19/2019, 12.15
JAPAN
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Fukushima nuclear plant bosses acquitted

The 2011 nuclear disaster at the Daiichi plant is second only to Chernobyl. The company’s former chairman and his deputies were indicted for not implementing effective measures. Prosecutors asked for a five-year sentence for the death of 44 people and injuries to 13 employees.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than eight years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Tokyo District Court this morning acquitted three former executives (pictured) of the company that runs the plant. Accused of professional negligence, they were the only people on trial for the tragic nuclear accident, the second worst after that of Chernobyl in 1986.

In March 2011, a tsunami caused by a quake hit the Daiichi plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), triggering the meltdown of three reactors. The event forced 160,000 people to flee, many of whom have never returned to their homes.

TEPCO’s 79-year-old former chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, and vice-presidents Ichiro Takekuro, 73, and Sakae Muto, 69, had been charged with failing to implement effective tsunami countermeasures.

According to the prosecutors, their negligence caused the death of 44 people, including patients forced to evacuate from the nearby hospital. Added to this are the serious injuries sustained by 13 employees in hydrogen explosions in the plant.

The prosecutors had asked for a five-year prison sentence for all three, noting that the defendants could have avoided the nuclear disaster had they fulfilled their responsibility to gather information and implement security measures.

During the trial, the defence argued that based on the government's assessment – which the former executives considered unreliable – the three could not have predicted tsunami waves on the scale of those that hit the plant. Even the installation of coastal levees would not have prevented the disaster.

In announcing the verdict, judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said: “It would be impossible to operate a nuclear plant if operators are obliged to predict every possibility about a tsunami and take necessary measures.”

In a statement released shortly after the sentence, TEPCO stated that "We once again offer our sincerest apologies for causing great trouble and worries to many people, including people in Fukushima Prefecture. Starting with Fukushima's reconstruction, we are putting all efforts" on providing compensation for damages related to the disaster, decommissioning work and decontamination".

The statement ended by noting that the company is determined to boost security measures in its nuclear power plants.

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