Locals call for criminal charges against Fukushima officials


By Andrew Barr

A complaint signed by more than 1,300 Fukushima residents has demanded that Japanese government officials and nuclear executives should be sent to prison.

The written complaint suggests that 33 executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and government officials are to blame for the extent of the radiation disaster which followed the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The group of local residents naming itself Plaintiffs Against the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, said on its website: “The Fukushima nuclear accident is the worst corporate crime in Japan’s history and caused significant damage to the life, health and assets of the people of Fukushima and the rest of Japan.

“We lost our homeland, filled with beautiful nature, and our irreplaceable community. We shoulder the heavy burden of a divided local community and we are sitting in the midst of a suffering which shall never end.”

The Fukushima disaster in 2011 was rated 7 on the INES scale due to extraordinarily high levels of radiation being released over the first few days.  According the World Nuclear Association there have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the disaster, but over 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.

Plaintiffs Against the Fukushima Nuclear Plant have filed their written complaint with the Fukushima District Public Prosecutors Office, claiming that officials failed to adequately prepare for potential radiation, even though earthquakes and the threat of tsunamis were common in Japan.  The local group accuses executives and government officials of professional negligence.

Citizens groups had filed complaints about the disaster before, but residents have now chosen to take matters into their own hands after no cases were officially formed.

72-year-old Ryuko Tachibana, who lived in the Fukushima town of Namie , told a gathering of Plaintiffs Against the Fukushima Nuclear Plant: “Disaster victims should express their anger more. The wounds that people suffered as a result of the accident are all too deep.”

With shareholder meetings of Japan’s four biggest utilities set to go ahead on June 27th, pro- and anti-nuclear camps are facing a new opportunity for campaigning.

Earlier this week, environmental group Greenpeace launched a Twitter campaign to put pressure on Kansai Electric Power Co., which uses nuclear plants to supply almost half of its electricity and which owns reactors at the Oi nuclear plants in Japan.

The growing unpopularity of nuclear energy was evident in a public protest held in Tokyo on June 3rd, demanding an end to all power reactors.

Japan, like the rest of the developed world, is facing an opportunity to change its energy sources and help protect people and the environment from further disaster.

Last week Japan’s prime minister risked a voter backlash after stating that two idled nuclear reactors in western Japan must be restarted to protect jobs and ensure the “survival of society”.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s statement came at a news conference just hours after the former president of Fukushima plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, testified in front of a panel appointed by parliament to probe the disaster.

The ex-president, Masataka Shimizu, denied allegations he had considered pulling out all the plant’s workers as they battled the world’s worst atomic accident in 25 years.

But he acknowledged he might not have been clear about his intentions.

Locals in nearby Iwaki city have also complained about the conduct of many contract workers brought in to help clean up the stricken plant.  Iwaki is the staging area for the workers who are rotated every three months because of the risks of radiation.

Allegations of violence and even rape levelled against some of the stressed out contractors has resulted in the companies which employ them slapping a 9pm hotel curfew on their employees.

The fallout from the Fukushima disaster saw many countries review their nuclear power plans.  Germany halted its programme altogether and recently French organisation EDF signalled its intention to withdraw from UK nuclear construction projects after construction costs escalated by 40%.