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Fukushima disaster WAS preventable

May 10, 2018


Seismologist testifies Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable



TOKYO -- A seismologist has testified during the trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant, that the nuclear crisis could have been prevented if proper countermeasures had been taken.

"If proper steps had been taken based on a long-term (tsunami) evaluation, the nuclear accident wouldn't have occurred," Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, told the Tokyo District Court on May 9.


Shimazaki, who played a leading role in working out the national government's long-term evaluation, appeared at the 11th hearing of the three former TEPCO executives as a witness.

Prosecutors had initially not indicted the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel consisting of members of the public deemed twice that the three deserve prosecution, court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors indicted the three under the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.


Court-appointed attorneys insist that former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto, 67, and others postponed implementing tsunami countermeasures based on the long-term evaluation, leading to the disaster.


The government's Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion released its long-term evaluation in 2002 predicting that a massive tsunami could occur along the Japan Trench including the area off Fukushima.


In 2008, TEPCO estimated that a tsunami up to 15.7 meters high could hit the Fukushima No. 1 power station, but failed to reflect the prediction in its tsunami countermeasures at the power station.


The Cabinet Office's Central Disaster Prevention Council also did not adopt the long-term evaluation in working out its disaster prevention plan.


Shimazaki, who was a member of the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion's earthquake research panel in 2002, told the court that the Cabinet Office pressured the panel shortly before the announcement of the long-term evaluation to state that the assessment is unreliable. The headquarters ended up reporting in the long-term evaluation's introduction that there were problems with the assessment's reliability and accuracy.


In his testimony, Shimazaki pointed out that the Central Disaster Prevention Council decision not to adopt the long-term evaluation led to inappropriate tsunami countermeasures.


With regard to factors behind the council's refusal to accept the evaluation, Shimazaki stated that he can only think of consideration shown to those involved in the nuclear power industry and politics.


"If countermeasures had been in place based on the long-term evaluation, many lives would've been saved," Shimazaki told the court.


Shimazaki served as deputy chairman of the government's Nuclear Regulatory Authority after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.


(Japanese original by Epo Ishiyama, City News Department, and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department)



Quake expert tells court that nuclear disaster was preventable




May 10, 2018 at 17:35 JST

Fukushima disaster WAS preventable

A collapsed crane and other debris at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant after tsunami devastated the area on March 11, 2011 (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)


The architect of a key earthquake forecast testified in court May 9 that the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture could have been prevented if his warning had been heeded.


Kunihiko Shimazaki was testifying in proceedings against three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, accused of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of 44 people and related injuries to others who had to be evacuated from a hospital near the facility.


While the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office decided not to press charges against the three, citing a lack of evidence, independent judicial panels of citizens voted for mandatory indictments against them.


Shimazaki compiled the earthquake forecast in July 2002 while he worked at the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion.


His report warned that a magnitude-8 level earthquake could strike off the Sanriku coast in the northeastern Tohoku region to as far south as the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture.


Shimazaki said in court that 10-meter-high tsunami was predicted for a wide area from the Tohoku to Kanto regions.


The trial at the Tokyo District Court was the 11th to determine the responsibility of those who held executive positions at TEPCO when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit on March 11, 2011, spawning towering tsunami that inundated the plant and caused it to go into a triple meltdown.


Shimazaki, professor emeritus of seismology at the University of Tokyo, served on a committee at the earthquake research body from 1995 to 2012 and played a pivotal role in the compilation of a long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes occurring in his capacity as head of the quake panel.


When the lawyer acting as prosecutor asked Shimazaki about the process of compiling the report, he explained that numerous opinions were expressed by “experts with various perspectives.” He said the common denominator that everyone agreed on was the likelihood of a major earthquake striking at some point.


Shimazaki also asserted that the Cabinet Office took issue with "the range in credibility of the data” prior to and after the release of the quake forecast, which he labeled as interference and "non-scientific.”


Defense lawyers have entered pleas of innocence on behalf of their clients, citing the low reliability of the forecast.


Shimazaki noted that his report undoubtedly annoyed operators of nuclear power plant


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