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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 March 14 - 20  > Kyoto court acknowledges state responsibility for Fukushima nuclear meltdown
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2018 March 14 - 20 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Kyoto court acknowledges state responsibility for Fukushima nuclear meltdown

March 16, 2018
The Kyoto District Court on March 15 ordered the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay 110 million yen in damages to 110 evacuees of the Fukushima nuclear disaster who are taking shelter in Kyoto.

The national government’s responsibility for the Fukushima accident was acknowledged in damage suits of this kind for the third time, following rulings by the Maebashi District Court in March 2017 and by the Fukushima District Court in October 2017.

The lawsuit in the Kyoto court was filed by 174 residents of Fukushima and four other neighboring prefectures in total. Of them, the court awarded damages to 110 plaintiffs including “voluntary evacuees”, those who lived in areas in which radiation doses were relatively high but lower than 20 mSv per year, the government-set criterion for issuance of evacuation orders.

One of the key issues in the court battle was whether the national government should be held responsible for the nuclear meltdowns. Concerning this point, the court ruling states that the national government must have been aware of the insufficiency of anti-tsunami measures at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant years before the NPP was crippled by massive tsunamis induced by the 2011 earthquake. It recognizes that the national government failed to fulfill its legal obligation to instruct TEPCO to improve emergency preparedness at the Fukushima site. The ruling also blamed the utility for negligence in constructing seawalls and other necessary emergency measures at the plant.

Another key issue is whether damages should be awarded to “voluntary evacuees”. Supporting in general the plaintiffs’ argument that even if there is no evacuation order, it does not mean that there is no need for evacuation, the ruling accepts compensation claims by most of such evacuees. The ruling states that it is necessary to take into account the fact that some people, such as children, should be deemed as more vulnerable to radiation exposure. The ruling, however, turned down compensation requests from some of the plaintiffs.

After the ruling, the plaintiffs, their lawyers, and supporters held a rally in Kyoto. One of the plaintiffs, who used to live in Ibaraki Prefecture said that the ruling is significant as it states that residents of Ibaraki also had sufficient reason and the right to take refuge.

Fukushima Atsuko, co-head of the plaintiffs’ group, said, “The state and TEPCO should accept their responsibilities, reflect on their actions, and apologize to all evacuees. We will work to help the tens of thousands of evacuees who are still unable to return to their hometowns.”

The plaintiffs and their lawyers plan to appeal to a higher court because not all the plaintiffs were awarded damages.

Past related articles:
> Court orders state and TEPCO to pay Y500 million in damages to 2011 meltdown sufferers [October 11, 2017]

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