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More apologies from TEPCO

October 30, 2018


Ex-TEPCO head apologizes to victims of 2011 nuclear disaster





A former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, apologized to victims of the 2011 nuclear disaster but would not acknowledge responsibility.


"I deeply apologize to those who died, their bereaved families, injured people, local people and society at large," Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, said Oct. 30 during the 33rd hearing of a trial at the Tokyo District Court of three former TEPCO executives accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury as a result of the disaster.

The trio were indicted by an inquest of prosecution committee, comprising ordinary citizens, seeking accountability for the nuclear disaster.


Katsumata, who also served as president, is on trial with former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72.


Katsumata, who has pleaded innocent, was asked by his lawyer, "Does the president directly grasp each job (at the company)?" to which the defendant replied, "I believe that's almost impossible."


Referring to his position as chairman, Katsumata said the job did not entail day-to-day business operations.


"My direct contact with employees decreased and my external activities increased," he added.


Lawyers assigned the role of prosecutors said the three defendants gave the go-ahead in 2008 for anti-tsunami measures to be implemented based on the government's "long-term assessment" of offshore earthquake probability.


However, despite being told that a quake-triggered tsunami could reach as high as 15.7 meters, they put off doing anything for fear it would adversely affect the company's bottom line.


The lawyers cited two key meetings as evidence that Katsumata was in a position to predict a massive tsunami could strike the plant.


Referring to one meeting in February 2008, when Katsumata was president, a subordinate testified that anti-tsunami measures based on the government assessment had been approved.


Referring to another meeting, held in February 2009, when Katsumata was chairman, a director in charge of anti-quake measures said, "Some people said that tsunami of about 14 meters high could strike (following a megaquake)."


(This article was written by Mikiharu Sugiura and Chikako Kawahara.)



Ex-TEPCO chairman sorry for nuke accident but says he was not in control of utility in 2011




TOKYO -- Former Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata apologized in the Tokyo District Court on Oct. 30 for the triple core meltdown that hit his company's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northern Japan in March 2011.

He nevertheless explained that, as chairman, he was not in a position to control the president and other top managers of the power utility when radioactive fallout from the disaster drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. The accident occurred after the plant's cooling system failed due to a power outage triggered by a massive tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake.


At the beginning of his questioning at around 11 a.m., Katsumata, bowing his head, said, "As someone who served as president and chairman, I apologize for causing enormous trouble to those who lost their lives, their bereaved families and the injured."

When asked by his lawyer about what his role was as TEPCO chairman, Katsumata explained that he had already handed authority on executing business affairs to the president. "I advised the president upon his request. My job was to take care of people outside the company and maintain contacts."


Katsumata told the court in its first hearing in June last year that it was "impossible" to foresee a nuclear accident would be triggered by a tsunami.


Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto have been indicted on charges of being responsible for the deaths of 44 patients at Futaba Hospital, near the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The victims died after they were forced to evacuate for many hours to avoid radiation spewing from the crippled power station. The three ex-TEPCO executives are accused of failing to take action to prevent the accident despite being able to foresee a massive tsunami could follow a major quake.


Earlier on Oct. 29, Takekuro was questioned at the district court before Katsumata.

When a lawyer representing the victims asked him what he imagined when he heard that tsunami as high as 15.7 meters could hit the Fukushima plant, Takekuro said, "I didn't imagine much."


All three defendants pleaded not guilty at their first court hearings last year. But the lawyer acting as the prosecutor in this trial has said Katsumata was aware of the need for countermeasures to ease the impact of tsunami based on discussions inside the company.


Despite Katsumata's explanation that he didn't have the control of the company after he became chairman in 2008, a former TEPCO employee said the ex-executive continued to retain effective authority to make decisions for the utility. He told a press conference three weeks after the nuclear disaster that tsunami "countermeasures were not sufficient."


Katsumata was known to be "razor-sharp" smart as he moved up the corporate ladder in the planning section, setting the utility's course and becoming president in 2002. His predecessor had stepped down over allegedly hiding trouble at a nuclear power plant. Katsumata also served as deputy chairman of the powerful Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) business group.


(Japanese original by Masanori Makita and Naotaka Ito, City News Department, and Mirai Nagira, Science & Environment News Department)






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