(EnviroNews World News) — The Chairman, and two Vice Presidents of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will stand trial for the death of 44 people who were killed in the ensuing melee following the March 11, 2011 triple nuclear reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in eastern Japan. The men will make their first appearance in court on June 30, 2017, answering for what are the only criminal charges so far, in an ongoing nightmare that has become arguably the worst manmade environmental catastrophe the world has ever seen.
Former TEPCO chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, alongside former Vice Presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71 were charged with “professional negligence resulting in death and injury,” in February of 2016. The trio will appear before the Tokyo District Court, after all three entered a plea of “innocent” at the arraignment.
“We hope the trial will shed light on the responsibility for this accident. The accident hasn’t been resolved. There is nuclear waste from the cleanup efforts everywhere in Fukushima, and there are still many unresolved problems,” said Ruiko Muto, who leads the group that advocated for the trial, to The Japan Times.
The hearing comes over six year after the meltdowns, and following intense deliberation about whether to charge the former executives or not. Prosecutors had twice said they wouldn’t charge the men after reviewing a complaint filed by 14,716 Fukushima residents in June of 2012, but changed course and decided to move forward with prosecution after a judicial review panel, comprised of ordinary citizens, voted for the second time last year that they should be indicted.
“We want a verdict as soon as possible,” Muto said. “Some victims of this tragedy have died without seeing the start of the trial.”
The heart of the case revolves around a governmental panel report that illuminates a 2008 simulation wherein TEPCO deduced a 52-foot tsunami could slam into the plant from an 8.3 magnitude earthquake. The accused executives allegedly ignored that study and failed to take precautions to safeguard the facility in such an event. The wave that flooded the Daiichi facility was about 45 feet high.
If convicted, the men could face up to five years in prison and a $9,000 fine, as campaigners push for approximately three-dozen other TEPCO executives to be charged as well.
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