Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. reiterated their not guilty plea during a trial on Tuesday over the Japanese company’s nuclear accident eight years ago.
“There was no predictability of massive tsunami and it’s obvious that they are free from blame,” their lawyers said at Tokyo District Court as hearings of the trial ended on Tuesday.
Presiding Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said the court will issue rulings on the three — former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72 — on Sept. 19.
The defense side said the government’s long-term earthquake forecast used as the basis of TEPCO’s own tsunami estimate compiled in March 2008 was unreliable.
The TEPCO estimate predicted that tsunami as high as 15.7 meters might hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, the scene of the March 11, 2011, triple reactor meltdown.
“The scale of the actual earthquake was totally different from a quake predicted in the government forecast,” the defense side claimed.
Although the forecast suggested the highest tsunami waves were likely to hit the south side of the plant, the actual tsunami came from the east side, the defense side said.
It said that the tsunami was unpredictable, and that the former executives were not responsible for preventing damage from it.
The three former executives were indicted in February 2016 for allegedly failing to take enough measures to protect the plant from tsunami, after a prosecution inquest panel comprising ordinary citizens twice overrode public prosecutors’ decisions not to charge them.
They have faced charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the nuclear accident.
Lawyers acting as prosecutors claimed that Muto, then deputy head of TEPCO’s nuclear business division, in July 2008 told staff that there was no need to take measures against tsunami anytime soon, after being informed of the tsunami estimate as high as 15.7 meters the previous month.
The acting prosecutors also claimed that Takekuro, then head of the division, was informed of Muto’s decision in August 2008, and that Katsumata, then head of the company, was aware of possible massive tsunami as early as February 2009.
According to the indictment, the three former executives failed to take measures against possible massive tsunami although they were able to predict them.
As a result, the plant was flooded by tsunami and the nuclear accident occurred subsequently in March 2011, causing the deaths of 44 patients evacuated from a nearby hospital, the indictment said.