The Maebashi District Court [official website, in Japanese] ruled that the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) [official website] are liable for professional negligence in their security maintenance at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
The district court in Maebashi, north of Tokyo, ruled in favour of 137 evacuees seeking damages for the emotional distress of fleeing their homes as radiation spread from the meltdowns at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi plant after an quake and tsunami six years ago. The court awarded ¥70,000 ($621) to ¥3.5 million ($31,000) each to 62 of the 137 plaintiffs, for a total of ¥38.55 million. As part of the process to clean-up areas in the vicinity of the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant that were evacuated because of fear of radiation. That apocalyptic forecast came true, with a wave around that height hitting the nuclear power plant in 2011, triggering the reactor meltdowns. But the court found that government experts had in fact concluded in a 2002 report that there was a 20% chance of a magnitude 8.0 or greater quake striking the area over the next 30 years.
"The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco, and the lack of governance by said parties", the report said. Lawyers had asked for about $100,000 apiece for all 137 plaintiffs.
One of the plaintiffs who had voluntarily left the city of Iwaki was awarded about 200,000 yen in damages for the 10-day period right after the March 2011 meltdowns.
Both the government and TEPCO argued that the long-term estimate and the May 2008 tsunami study were not credible enough, continuing to insist that the massive tsunami was unexpected.
The ruling hinged on a 2002 government report on long-term quake risks, in which a panel of seismologists estimated around a 20% chance of magnitude 8 natural disaster triggering a tsunami off the coast of northeastern Japan in the next 30 years.
The water overwhelmed reactor cooling systems and sent three into meltdown, spewing radiation over a wide area in Japan's worst post-war disaster and the world's most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. "Regarding today's judgment given at the Maebashi local court today, we would like to consider how to respond to this after examining the content of the judgment".