The Sendai High Court has ordered the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, to pay 1 billion yen ($9.5 million) in damages to victims of the 2011 disaster.
Affirming the decision and rationale of a Fukushima district court, the Sendai High Court made its decision Wednesday based on the foreseeability of a major tsunami, what countermeasures could have been implemented, and the sufficiency of the government’s compensation levels. To refute a government argument that the tsunami and nuclear disaster were not foreseeable, the high court pointed to a 2002 earthquake assessment stating a wave higher than 15 meters was possible. It further determined that the nuclear disaster could have been prevented if the government had ordered the implementation of additional safety measures after the report came out.
The plaintiffs sought 12 billion yen for 3,550 people. The number was calculated based on 50,000 yen monthly payments per plaintiff until the radiation levels around their homes returned to pre-crisis levels. Both the amount owed in damages and the number of plaintiffs to which it is owed have risen since a lower court issued its ruling in October 2017. TEPCO insists that since the original payments met government guidelines, they are not required to pay more. The high court rejected this argument, and found the government’s guidelines insufficient.
This is the first case in which a high court has acknowledged the government’s responsibility for the disaster. Similar lawsuits remain pending in Japanese courts. This decision, or the results of an appeal by the government and TEPCO may influence their outcomes, which can be filed until October 14.