Hundreds of people filed a group action lawsuit Jan. 30 against the manufacturers of the reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to apportion blame for the accident that occurred there in March 2011.
In their quest for compensation at the Tokyo District Court, the 1,400 plaintiffs argued that the companies bear responsibility for the emotional distress they suffered after the reactor meltdowns.
The plaintiffs include evacuees from the Fukushima disaster caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. They are suing General Electric Japan, Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp., which produced the reactors used at the facility, even though the nuclear damage compensation facilitation law stipulates that only facility operators have an obligation to pay reparations in the event of an accident.
“Funds for compensation paid by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to disaster victims are originally from electricity charges and taxpayer money,” said Akihiro Shima, the plaintiffs' attorney, at a news conference in Tokyo the same day. It is unfair for reactor makers to shoulder no liability, the lawyer added.
Of the plaintiffs, 1,000 are Japanese, including 38 residents of Fukushima Prefecture. The remaining 400 are from South Korea, Taiwan and other countries and regions that have nuclear plants.
The plaintiffs' group argued that they “have suffered emotional pain from radiation exposure” or “were shocked and felt fear over the spread of radioactive substances after watching video footage of the accident.”
The complainants insist that the nuclear damage compensation facilitation law is unconstitutional, and therefore invalid, because it prevents people from filing suits that question the responsibility of reactor makers.
One of the plaintiff attorneys emphasizes the lawsuit’s significance.
“It is a lawsuit designed to drag the makers of the reactors out of hiding," said Hiroyuki Kawai, who is also representing TEPCO shareholders in a lawsuit they have filed against the utility's executives.
The amount of claimed compensation was set low--just 100 yen ($1) per person--because the lawsuit is primarily intended to force the reactor makers to accept their responsibility.
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