東電「強制起訴」 高度な注意義務求めた検察審

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Judicial review panel condemns ex-TEPCO execs for negligence
東電「強制起訴」 高度な注意義務求めた検察審

Executives must face criminal charges for their failure to take sufficient measures to prevent a disaster even though it was caused by an unprecedented natural disaster. This appears to be the judgment of a citizens prosecution inquest panel.

Concerning the nuclear disaster that occurred at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the judicial review panel voted for a second time Friday that three of the then top executives of the utility, including chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, should be indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury. Prosecutors have twice previously decided not to indict them.

As a result, the three former executives will have to stand trial after being forcibly indicted.

The panel condemned Katsumata and two other executives, charging that they continued to operate the nuclear plant without taking necessary safety steps and that this led to the disaster caused by the tsunami, which resulted in reactor core damage.

True, TEPCO had operated under a safety myth. The utility cannot be allowed to evade responsibility for having caused such social and economic damage as a result of dispersing radioactive substances.

But under the criminal code, individuals are charged with criminal responsibility, not businesses. To file a charge for professional negligence resulting in death and injury, it is necessary to prove that the accused was guilty of negligence evidently while recognizing concrete dangers, not just having a vague sense of alarm.

Duty to ensure safety

The panel said: “Those in responsible positions in nuclear power generation are responsible for preparing measures by taking into consideration every possibility of a serious accident being caused by tsunami.”

This reflects the panel’s view that executives of power companies have a higher obligation of diligence than usual.

Based on the analysis of a government institution, TEPCO estimated in 2008 that the highest conceivable tsunami could be more than 15 meters high. The panel cited this estimate to argue that the former TEPCO executives could have foreseen the damage.

But according to interviews with experts, the prosecutors had recognized that the data of the government institution had a low degree of reliability and concluded that it was difficult at the time to recognize the actual possibility of such a gigantic tsunami.

In judging whether there was negligence, the key point is whether the former top executives committed professional negligence by leaving an apparent danger unaddressed based on the state of scientific knowledge before the nuclear disaster. We wonder whether the panel held sufficient discussions in this connection.

We want the court to hold prudent hearings in light of evidence.

Most important of all is to use lessons from the Fukushima nuclear disaster to prevent a recurrence of a similar crisis.

Nuclear regulation standards were made stricter in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Based on new regulation standards, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has been conducting safety screenings of nuclear power plants in various places around the country based on new regulation criteria, a process that is necessary to restart nuclear power plants. It is imperative for utilities to conduct risk management thoroughly, thereby enhancing the safety of nuclear plants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 1, 2015)

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