A district court in Maebashi, Japan, has ruled that both the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company should have taken steps to avoid the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Generating Station, given a government report in 2002 indicated that a huge tsunami in the region was possible.
The ruling is the first time the government has been held accountable for the disaster, although the awards given 62 out of 137 plaintiffs in the case were much smaller than the plaintiffs had sought.
The court ordered Tepco and the government to pay between $621 and $31,000 to 62 plaintiff. Lawyers had asked for about $100,000 apiece for all 137 plaintiffs.
The ruling was still described by The Japanese Times as “stunning,” given the large number of similar cases working their way through the court system. The ruling could set the precedent for 30 other cases involving 100,000 plaintiffs, The Guardian reported Friday.
An independent commission set up by the Japanese parliament had concluded in 2012 that the accident at Fukushima “was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco, and the lack of governance.” Part of the aftermath to the accident was an overhaul of the Japanese regulatory system for the nuclear power industry.
The case decided this week focused on the hardship of evacuees, including some of the plaintiffs who volunteered to leave their Fukushima homes, as they were living outside of the official evacuation zone.
An estimated 80,000 evacuees fled the region around the plant. The case decided Friday involved 76 citizens from the evacuation zone and 61 who were termed voluntary evacuees.
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