The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday acquitted three former Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) executives, finding them not guilty of manslaughter over the 2011 triple reactor meltdown at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday.
The High Court’s ruling was a decision on an appeal against a 2019 judgment by the Tokyo district court that found former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former executive vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were not guilty of professional negligence on the grounds they could not have foreseen the tsunami that wrecked the plant.
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast triggered the tsunami that flooded the plant’s reactors, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
The High Court case focused on whether the tsunami could have been predicted and whether the accident at the nuclear plant could have been prevented.
The criminal case against the executives follows a civil case in which a Tokyo court in July 2022 ordered the three men – along with Tepco’s former President Masataka Shimizuto – to pay 13 trillion yen ($95 billion) in damages to the operator of the wrecked plant.
That ruling, which came after shareholders filed a lawsuit in 2012, was the first to find former Tepco executives legally responsible for the nuclear plant disaster.