The Tokyo district court on Wednesday ordered four former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) to pay 13 trillion yen ($95 billion) in damages to the operator of the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, the plaintiff’s lawyers said.
The ruling, in a civil case brought by Tepco shareholders, marks the first time a court has found former executives responsible for the nuclear disaster, local media reports said.
The court judged that the executives could have prevented the disaster if they had exercised due care.
“One accident with a nuclear power plant leads to irreversible damage to both human lives and the environment. The executives of companies that operate such plants also have a huge responsibility on them that is incomparable with other companies,” said Yui Kimura, a member of the plaintiff.
“I think the court’s judgment says that anyone who does not have the determination or capability to take on that responsibility should not become an executive,” Kimura told a news conference following the ruling.
Public broadcaster NHK quoted an unnamed lawyer representing the former executives as saying the attorney would not comment before closely examining the verdict.
A Tepco spokesperson declined to comment on the ruling as well.
“We understand that a ruling on the matter was handed down today, but we will refrain from answering questions on individual court cases,” the spokesperson said.
The ruling marks a departure from a criminal trial ruling in 2019, where the Tokyo district court found three Tepco executives not guilty of professional negligence, judging that they could not have foreseen the huge tsunami that struck the nuclear power plant.
The criminal case has been appealed and the Tokyo high court is expected to rule on the case next year.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power disaster, triggered by a tsunami that hit the east coast of Japan in March 2011, was one of the world’s worst and generated massive clean-up, compensation and decommissioning costs for Tepco.
The civil lawsuit, brought by Tepco shareholders in 2012, demanded that five former Tepco executives pay the beleaguered company 22 trillion yen in compensation for ignoring warnings of a possible tsunami.