Fukushima survivors to sue Japan govt

2013-02-08 11:28
Members of the media wear protective suits at Fukushima. (File, AFP)

Members of the media wear protective suits at Fukushima. (File, AFP)

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Tokyo - People whose homes or farms were hit by radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant will file class-action lawsuits next month to seek damages from the Japanese government, lawyers said Friday.

At least 350 residents are to file a case with Fukushima District Court on 11 March, the second anniversary of the disaster, the lawyers said, describing it as the largest class-action on the issue against the state.

The plaintiffs, who are also scheduled to sue plant operator Tokyo Electric Power, plan to seek 50 000 yen ($535) in compensation for every month they have been displaced by the disaster.

They also intend to ask the court to issue an order forcing both the government and TEPCO to reduce radiation levels in the area to those of before the accident.

Nuclear crisis

The world's worst nuclear crisis in a generation began when a huge tsunami, sparked by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, crashed into the Fukushima power station and swamped cooling systems.

Reactors went into meltdown, spewing radiation over a wide area and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people.

"The government promoted nuclear power as a national policy and has been closely involved with it," lawyer Izutaro Managi told AFP.

"Being fully aware of the danger of losing power due to a tsunami, the government neglected its duty of preventing such an event," he said. "This is a suit to recover a Fukushima with neither radiation nor nuclear power."

Several other similar class-action suits will be also filed separately on 11 March with the Tokyo District Court, against both the government and TEPCO, other lawyers said.

Played down risk

Experts said they brought the wrecked units under control in December 2011. But melted fuel remains inside their cores and the full decommissioning and cleaning-up is expected to take decades.

In July last year a parliamentary report said Fukushima was a man-made disaster caused by Japan's culture of "reflexive obedience" and not just by the tsunami that hit the plant.

TEPCO has admitted it played down known tsunami risks for fear of the political, financial and reputational cost.

No one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the nuclear disaster.

Japanese police have reportedly questioned a former head of the nuclear safety body and TEPCO executives regarding possible criminal charges over the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

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