TOKYO: Three former executives at Fukushima’s operator stand trial this week on the only criminal charges laid in the 2011 disaster, as thousands remain unable to return to homes near the shuttered nuclear plant.
The hearing on Friday comes more than a year after ex-Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and former vice presidents Sakae Muto, 66, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71, were formally charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
The indictments are the first—and only—criminal charges stemming from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
“We hope the trial will shed light on where the responsibility for this accident…lies,” Ruiko Muto, who heads a group that pushed for the trial, told Agence France-Presse.
“The accident hasn’t been resolved. There is nuclear waste from the cleanup efforts everywhere in Fukushima and there are still many unresolved problems,” she said.
The trial follows a battle over whether or not to indict the Tepco executives.
Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges against the men, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.
But a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in 2015—for the second time since the accident—that the trio should be put on trial.
That decision compelled prosecutors to press on with the criminal case under Japanese law.
“We want a verdict as soon as possible,” Muto said.
“Some victims of this tragedy have died without seeing the start of the trial.”
If convicted, the men face up to five years in prison or a penalty of up to one million yen ($9,000).