Tokyo, Feb. 19 (Jiji Press)–Tokyo High Court ordered the state government on Friday to pay compensation to people who evacuated their homes in Fukushima Prefecture following the nuclear accident a decade ago, overturning a district court judgment that the government should not be held accountable.
Presiding Judge Yukio Shirai found the government as well as Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. <9501> liable over the triple meltdown at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, caused by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011.
“If the government had taken (preventive) measures, the accident would not have happened,” he said. “It went against the law by not exercising its power to impose regulations.”
The judge ordered TEPCO to pay damages totaling some 278 million yen to the 43 Fukushima evacuees to Chiba Prefecture and the government to shoulder 135 million yen of the total.
In September 2017, Chiba District Court ordered TEPCO to pay some 376 million yen in compensation to the plaintiffs while rejecting their damages claim against the government.
A series of damages lawsuits have been filed against the government and the operator of the crippled nuclear plant by evacuees in various parts of the country.
Friday’s high court ruling was the third of its kind, and the second to find the government liable after one by Sendai High Court in September last year.
Shirai judged as “scientifically reliable” a long-term evaluation by the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002 that pointed to the possibility of an earthquake causing huge tsunami.
The government could have recognized the risk of tsunami taller than 15 meters based on the evaluation and made TEPCO take advance measures such as seawall construction and work to protect key equipment from seawater flooding, he noted.
“If such measures had been taken, the impact of the tsunami could have been alleviated considerably and the total power failure would not have occurred,” he went on to say.
Shirai also said the evacuees should be compensated also for psychological damage they suffered when they were thrown into the situation where they have to decide whether to return home or give up the idea of living in their hometowns again.