Takamatsu, Kagawa Pref., Sept. 29 (Jiji Press)–Takamatsu High Court on Wednesday became the third high court to hold the Japanese government liable to pay damages to those who had to leave their homes in Fukushima Prefecture due to meltdowns at a nearby nuclear power plant in 2011.
Upholding a Matsuyama District Court ruling acknowledging the government’s responsibility, Presiding Judge Ryuichi Kamiyama ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. <9501>, the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, to pay a total of some 46 million yen in compensation for 23 nuclear accident evacuees currently living in Ehime Prefecture.
The meltdowns occurred after the plant was struck by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequently triggered huge tsunami.
Sendai High Court held the government responsible for the accident in September last year and Tokyo High Court in February this year.
It was also the fourth high court ruling in damages lawsuits filed by Fukushima evacuees.
In the Ehime suit, the plaintiffs sought 132 million yen in damages. The focal point was whether the government could foresee such a monster tsunami, as TEPCO bears compensation liability under law regardless of negligence.
Kamiyama pointed out that a long-term assessment by the government’s earthquake research promotion headquarters in 2002 suggesting the possibility of a quake causing huge tsunami “can be taken as scientifically reliable.”
“The government should have considered and surveyed whether and to what extent tsunami would have an impact on the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, such as by doing a simulation,” he noted.
Kamiyama then criticized the government for not exercising its regulatory authority over TEPCO, saying the inaction is “intolerable and significantly unreasonable.”
Hiroshi Watanabe, one of the plaintiffs, said: “I’m grateful that the government was held responsible. I’m relieved.”
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs’ legal team said it will file an appeal against the ruling, claiming the compensation amount is too low.
In March 2019, the district court ordered the government and TEPCO to pay some 27 million yen in damages. Both plaintiffs and defendants appealed to the high court.