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Tokyo Court denies state responsibility over N-disaster

Tokyo, Jan. 21 (Jiji Press)–Tokyo High Court on Thursday denied the responsibility of the Japanese government over the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture.

The high court revoked part of a lower court ruling that ordered the government to pay compensation to evacuees over the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Presiding Judge Akira Adachi said that the government “was unable to foresee the occurrence of the massive tsunami” that caused the accident, based on a long-term evaluation by a state panel.

The lawsuit involved 91 residents of the northeastern prefecture who sought 450 million yen in total damages from the government and TEPCO after the accident forced them to evacuate to Gunma Prefecture, eastern Japan, and elsewhere.

The high court ordered TEPCO to pay some 120 million yen in total to 90 plaintiffs. The plaintiffs plan to file an appeal.

In March 2017, Maebashi District Court ordered the government and TEPCO to pay some 38.55 million yen in total, saying that the tsunami was predictable. This ruling became the first of its kind for any class-action lawsuit filed by Fukushima evacuees against the government.

In a separate lawsuit in September last year, Sendai High Court recognized the government’s responsibility for the nuclear accident.

Adachi said that the long-term evaluation by the government’s headquarters for earthquake research promotion in 2002 that pointed to a possible major earthquake did not match information disclosed by the Japan Society of Civil Engineers the same year.

He also pointed out that the scale and type of the 2011 tsunami was greatly different from the one estimated by TEPCO, and that the installment of seawalls and a watertight system would not have helped prevent the accident.

“It is difficult to acknowledge that the government had problems with its tsunami countermeasures, and it cannot be asserted that the absence of the exercise of its regulatory authority was illegal,” Adachi said.

One of the 91 plaintiffs has already died, according to a lawyer representing them. Of the remaining plaintiffs, 30 have returned to Fukushima and 60 are living in Gunma or elsewhere.

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