(For today’s Commentary Japanese Press Promotes Wide-spread Distrust – please click here)

It seems that legal action concerning the Fukushima accident has become increasingly popular in Japan. In addition to our report on a civil complaint on Wednesday, we now have two more…

  • A nation-wide group of 13,000 citizens have submitted a criminal complaint against Tepco and the now-defunct Nuclear Safety Commission. This is the second such action filed by the group. However, their first legal complaint in June was submitted on behalf of 1,300 individuals from the Tohoku region around Fukushima Daiichi. The full order of magnitude increase in plaintiffs on the new filing covers nearly all of Japan. The complaint asks that 33 Tepco officials and the entire NSC be investigated and indicted on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in deaths and injuries. Among the accused was Tsunehisa Katsumata, Tepco Chairman at the onset of the accident. The Plaintiffs main focus is on their exposure to radiation, regardless of whether or not the levels are/were actually harmful. They also point to people who have died, for whatever reason, saying that if the accident hadn’t happened they would still be alive. According to the Penal Code, those who fail to exercise due care and thereby cause the death or injury of another, face a maximum of either five years in prison or a fine of 1 million yen (~$12,000). (Kyodo News Service; Japan Today)
  • Forty-one people evacuated from within 30 kilometers of F. Daiichi are jointly suing Tepco for about $25 million. According to their lawyers, they demand financial compensation for having their “homeland stolen and integrity as a human being destroyed.” The amount being sought is based on a legal precedent involving the quarantine of Leprosy patients. Of the more than one million dollars per plaintiff, about $6 thousand is intended for emotional damage and $200 thousand for real estate damage. All 41 say they have lost all hope of ever returning home again, regardless of what the government and Tepco tell them is safe. The plaintiffs are all receiving state-mandated compensation from Tepco, but the lawyers say the amounts are small when compared to the catastrophic effect the Fukushima accident has inflicted on them. Naoko Kanai, 48, leader for the plaintiff group, says, “Going to court was the only option to stop more people from suffering.” (Mainichi Shimbun)

Now for some non-litigious updates…

  • The lead story across Japan is Prime Minister Noda’s dissolution of the Diet’s Lower House (House of Representatives). Disbanding the Lower House is necessary to pave the way for a national general election, scheduled for December 16. All political parties can now prepare for 12 days of hard-core campaigning prior to the election itself. Japan’s controlling political party, the DPJ, had no other choice but to submit to a “snap election”. Polls across the country show a less than 20% favorable rating for the DPJ. This rivals the level of displeasure experienced by the Naoto Kan regime before he stepped down. While the DPJ recovered some popularity when Yoshihiko Noda became PM, public disfavor with earthquake/tsunami recovery, the plummeting state of the economy, the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, and escalating taxes have combined to make Japan’s ruling party no longer acceptable to the public…all of which is amplified by a general distrust of the government itself. It is believed the tax and nuclear energy issues will dominate the upcoming campaign. Noda remarked, “This is an election to decide on the nation’s direction – to go forward or to go backward.” Most of the Lower House shouted “banzai” three times in unison before erupting in applause. Commentators say no one party will have a House majority after the election due to the anticipated coalition of the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) and smaller fringe parties, which are expected to replace the unpopular DPJ itself.
  • Tepco is putting together plans to build a sealed outer structure around F. Daiichi unit #3. The structure will serve the same purpose as the one currently encompassing unit #1. The planned result will be two-fold. First, it will shield the demolished outer building from the impacts of storms, high summer temperatures, and the cold of winter. This will likely facilitate the work being done on unit #3. Second, the enclosure will block the low level radioactive airborne materials that continue to waft into the atmosphere from the damaged outer structure. The only part of the planned enclosure that will remain open is at ground level in order to allow equipment and materials to move in and out. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Tepco’s deputy site manager for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear station, Shiro Arai, says “It is too premature to talk about when [our] reactor restarts will happen.” A fifteen-meter –high tsunami protection wall needs to be completed, which won’t be done until next spring. The Kariwa station is the largest single nuclear power site in the world, with a total rating of 8,212 MWe (Megawatts-electrical) output when all seven units are operating. The wall protecting the three newest units (#5-7) is completed, but the one that will surround the four older units remains unfinished. Tall steel reinforcement bars can be seen surrounding the four older power plants, all of which will be encased in concrete. The completed wall will be about one kilometer long. Asai also pointed out the buildings on high ground which house mobile high-voltage generators, water-pumping trucks and portable heat exchangers that could be invaluable if the Kariwa complex ever experiences a full-station blackout. In addition a new 20,000 ton reservoir for emergency cooling water is being filled, airborne contamination filters are being installed on the site’s Emergency Support Center, and the reactor building basements are being water-proofed – all of which have been mandated by Tokyo to prevent a Fukushima-like accident from happening again. However, local geologist Masaaki Tateishi says Tepco isn’t doing enough. He wants Tepco to re-assess earthquake risks before restarting any of Kariwa’s seven nukes, “TEPCO has mostly finished implementing the safety steps required after the Fukushima disaster apart from finishing the tsunami walls, but I doubt whether these upgrades are enough to avoid a repetition.” (Japan Today)