Court Blames Japan’s Gov’t For Nuclear Disaster

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The Japanese government was negligent during the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011, according to a recent district court ruling.

For the first time in the nation’s postwar history, a Japanese court held the central government liable for the Fukushima meltdown. A district court found the government failed to work with the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which owned the Fukushima nuclear reactors, to create an adequate barrier wall to protect the plant from a major tsunami.

Some 137 people who were forced to evacuate their homes due to the meltdown sued, alleging the compensation they had received was inadequate. The district court found TEPCO and the government owe further damages payments to people forced to evacuate because of the disaster.

“Tepco has so far paid more than ¥7 trillion ($62 billion) in compensation to people who lived near the plant and is still struggling to figure out how to clean up the stricken reactors,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “Some 30 class-action lawsuits have been brought by people who suffered from an accident on March 11, 2011, when a tsunami triggered by an earthquake flooded the Fukushima Daiichi plant.”

Nearly 40,000 Fukushima residents are still registered as evacuees.

TEPCO measured radiation levels at Fukushima’s reactor 2 at 530 sieverts per hour, which is higher than the 73 sieverts measured shortly after the disaster. For context, exposure of 4 sieverts per hour is often enough to kill a person. Those readings could be the result of some melted fuel found from the reactor — which is part of the decommissioning process.

The Fukushima nuclear plant was hit by an earthquake and then a tsunami in 2011, causing a meltdown and radiation leaks. No deaths or cases of radiation sickness were reported, but 100,000 citizens were evacuated from the area, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Prior to the disaster, the Japanese government planned to build enough reactors to provide 50 percent of the country’s electricity. Officials promised to replace nuclear power with wind or solar, but this caused the price of electricity to rise by 20 percent.

Japan aims to restart at least 32 of the 54 reactors it shut down following the Fukushima disaster. Officials want nuclear power to account for 20 percent of Japan’s total electricity generation by 2030.

Nuclear power provided 29 percent of Japan’s total electricity before 2011, but that will decline to 13.6 percent by 2023 and 1.2 percent by 2040, according to reports. Japan got 24 percent of its electricity from coal in 2010, and the country plans to get more than a third of its power from coal by 2040.

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