It is unacceptable that the Supreme Court refuses to hold the government liable for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power accident
--Statement on the June 17 ruling
June 21, 2022
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
The Supreme Court’s Second Petty Bench ruled on June 17 that the government is not liable for the damage caused by the 2011 accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Presiding Judge Sugano Hiroyuki turned down the plaintiffs’ demand for compensation caused by the damage. The lawsuit was filed by people in Fukushima and those who were forced to displaced to Gunma, Chiba, and Ehime prefectures. They demanded that the government pay them damages. Three of the four judges argued that “the nuclear accident could have occurred even if safety measures against tsunami had been taken by the plant operator.” The Supreme Court turned its back on the voices of the victims who are forced to endure displacement. It is unacceptable that the top court fails to pay attention to the grave consequences of the severe accident, which are still left unresolved today 11 years after the accident.
The nuclear accident victims wanted the court to hold the government, which has implemented a national policy of promoting nuclear power generation, liable for failing to use its power to exercise control over Tokyo Electric Power Company, which did not take safety measures against tsunami based on a long-term assessment of earthquake prediction that was made public in 2002 by the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion.
The majority opinion stated that the government cannot be held liable for the accident because it was highly possible that the tsunami was much larger and more extensive than assumed and that the influx of massive sea water into the power plant’s compound could not be prevented even if a tide wall had been built based on the “long-term assessment.” The judicial opinion is unacceptable in that it totally supports the government argument that it cannot be helped as the earthquake and tsunami were beyond the scope of assumption.
The dissenting opinion by Judge Miura Mamoru stated that the wording “beyond the scope of assumption” does not mean denying all assumptions. He pointed out that the government can be held liable because “it is highly possible that the accident would have been averted if the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and TEPCO had considered the matter in earnest and taken appropriate measures in conformity with the law.
Since the 2011 accident, slackened safety measures, including those against tsunami, continue to be in place as shown by a court ruling in May ordering a halt to the reactors at Hokkaido Electric Power Company’s Tomari plant. The government is not willing to exercise its power to enforce the rules in conformity with the Electricity Business Act to ensure the safety of residents. The government of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and the ruling Liberal Democratic and Komeito parties as well as the opposition Nippon Ishin and Democratic Party for the People are calling for resuming the operation of nuclear reactors, including the aged ones. But no nuclear reactors, for which no one is willing to take responsibility, must not be put online.
The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) will continue to support evacuees from the crippled nuclear plant areas in their pending lawsuits and fight to demand that the government be held liable for the accidents and change its nuclear power policy. It will also join forces with the broad sections of the people in the effort to realize the relief and compensation for the victims of the nuclear accidents, help achieve the true reconstruction of Fukushima, oppose the resumption of operation of the existing reactors or the construction of new nuclear power plants, and win a policy that ends nuclear power and drastically shift toward renewable energy.