TOKYO — Japan’s prosecutors officially began investigating Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and its former top executives on criminal charges today in relation to the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima following last year’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
TEPCO was formally nationalized yesterday, July 31, after a trillion yen government cash infusion. This recent turn of events coud be very bad news for the remaining executives. Most criminal sentences in Japan also include hard labor as punishment.
The responsibility for the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant has been a point of contention for over a year but an unprecedented special investigatory body created by the Japanese Parliament, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) released a report that put the blame squarely on the shoulders of TEPCO and the Japanese government. It concluded: “the accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents.” The report also said that the possibility an earthquake played a major role in the meltdown, long before the allegedly “unprecedented” tsunami knocked out power supplies could not be ruled out.
Since last Spring, The Tokyo Prosecutor Office Special Investigative Division has been conducting a preliminary investigation into TEPCO on charges of criminal negligence resulting in death and/or injury. The firm is also facing charges of Environmental Pollution Crimes relating to Human Health (公害罪法違反). A Ministry of Justice source close to the investigation said on conditions of anonymity, “It seems very clear that TEPCO knew that an earthquake and/or a tsunami would probably damage the reactors and result in a meltdown. They failed to take preventive measures and their response in after-math was negligent, insufficient, and under Japanese law, they will be held criminally responsible.”
Across Japan, there have been at least twenty criminal complaints filed against TEPCO and Japanese government officials since March of last year, some by residents, some by citizen groups. Prosecutors in Fukushima Prefecture and Tokyo held off officially accepting the complaints until the final government report was promulgated last month. Law enforcement sources say that the NAIIC report will be used as evidence in the investigation. Another report issued by the RJIF, which has testimony suggesting the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant cooling system collapsed resulting in an LOCA (loss of coolant accident) before the tidal wave, is also said to be in the prosecutors’ evidence file.
The anger directed toward TEPCO and the Japanese government is quite substantial, there have been several popular books published calling for the criminal prosecution of the company and the nuclear industry, including such hits as, at right, Judging the Crimes of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident. The cover reads, “You too can file a criminal complaint against the evil nuclear industrial complex!”
TEPCO as noted above is also accused of environmental crimes as well as those violating the penal code. The problem for the prosecution is in proving, first, the meltdown could have been prevented or foreseen and that there was thus criminal negligence, second, to what extent exposure to radiation is “harmful” or if the accident has resulted in death, and, third, how to determine the extent of environmental damage. The issues of government responsibility may be far beyond the prosecution’s mandate. The investigation is expected to focus on Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of TEPCO shown above at a contrite press conference three weeks after the disaster. He was absent on the day of the accident because he was visiting China on a press junket with Japanese reporters. Katsumata was the CEO of TEPCO before a minor nuclear plant accident forced him to resign and take what was deemed the lesser post of chairman.
If TEPCO executives are prosecuted for criminal neglect, it will not be the first time power company officials have faced such charges. After a much smaller scale nuclear accident at the JCO plant in Tokaimura in 1999, six employees of the firm were investigated and finally in 2003 found guilty of professional negligence resulting in death. If previous cases are any indication, the half-life of this investigation will be very long as well.
Fukushima prefectural government requested Hirosaki University to stop internal exposure test “because it causes fear of Fukushima people”.
Researching team of Hirosaki university conducted radiation test for Iodine 131 taken in the thyroid for 17 people in Namiemachi, where is in planned evacuation area and 45 people who evacuated from MInamisoma to Fukushima (62 in total). The researching team obtained the permission of the citizens and local government.
To make the reliable data, they needed over 100 testees but the local medical department of Fukushima prefecture stopped them conducting further research. They commented, “The researching team is allowed to measure environmental radiation level but internal exposure test causes fear, it shall be stopped.”
The medical department states, they don’t remember that comment but they actually requested other universities to “understand the feelings of local citizens.” as well.
As the result, almost none of the internal exposure data of Iodine 131 remained.
The radiation data of those 62 people are already published. On the assumption that they took Iodine 131 to their thyroid on 3/12,the total dosage of internal exposure of the 5 people exceed 50 mSv, which they had to take iodine preparation from the regulation of IAEA. However now it’s considered to be more possible that they took iodine 131 on 3/15, they are analyzing the data again.
Around the end of March 2011, Nuclear disaster headquarters of the government actually conducted thyroid internal exposure test for 1080 of 0 ~ 15 years old people living in Iidate mura but because they used the simple equipment, they couldn’t measure iodine 131 directly.Source
Regardless of radioactive contamination, Fukushima’s agricultural industry is trying to push their products to all around in Japan. Now that other countries are banning import of more and more products from Japan, which one is facing the truth and which one is not..
North Pacific giant octopus from Fukushima offshore was dealt at Tsukiji market on 8/2/2012. It was landed on 7/30/2012. (cf. Fukushima is going to start selling marine products)
The winning price was 120% of average to celebrate their restart.
On the other hand, on 7/27/2012, South Korean government decided to ban the import of 35 more sorts of fishery products (including flounder, Manila clam, and urchin) for the possible radioactive contamination.
They explain it was preventive measures. Though this is supposed to be a temporary measures, South Korea has not imported these 35 kinds of fishery products since 311 happened actually.
These 35 kinds of fishery products are banned to sell by Japanese government as well.
So far, 64 kinds of marine products are in their banning list.
This article (Deformed fish is served at Sushi bar) makes me think South Korea is the rational one.