Photo/IllutrationLawyers for the plaintiffs hold up banners proclaiming victory at the Fukushima District Court in Fukushima on Oct. 10. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

Evacuees praised the Fukushima District Court’s Oct. 10 ruling that harshly criticized the central government for negligence in not ordering Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to take safeguards against tsunami, which led to the 2011 nuclear disaster.

“If we do not try to make the government’s responsibility clear, a (similar) accident will be repeated. On that point, we obtained a complete victory (as the ruling acknowledged the government’s responsibility),” said Takashi Nakajima, 61, leader of the plaintiffs.

The court ordered the government and TEPCO to pay compensation of 500 million yen ($4.4 million) in total damages to 2,907 of the 3,824 plaintiffs.

It was the second court ruling to acknowledge the government’s responsibility for failing to prevent the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, following the Maebashi District Court ruling in March.

The Chiba District Court in September, however, did not accept the plaintiffs' assertion that the government is responsible for the nuclear accident, which was caused by tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

In the Oct. 10 ruling handed down by the Fukushima District Court, presiding judge Hideki Kanazawa acknowledged that TEPCO and the government were both responsible for the nuclear accident.

However, the district court rejected the plaintiffs' demand that TEPCO and the government restore their living environments to pre-disaster levels.

The focus of the trial was the credibility of the “long-term appraisal” worked out by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in July 2002. The appraisal pointed out the possibility that a major earthquake that would trigger a tsunami could occur off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture.

As for the assessment, the government and TEPCO offered rebuttal, including the opposing views of experts.

The two defendants asserted that it was impossible to predict a major tsunami like the one that struck the nuclear plant. They also said that even if they took measures against tsunami, that would not have prevented the nuclear accident.

On the other hand, the Oct. 10 ruling placed importance on the long-term appraisal as an official viewpoint that was reached through experts’ discussions. The ruling also said that even if other experts expressed opposing views, it cannot be argued that the credibility of the long-term appraisal had been lost.

The ruling said that if the government conducted simulations based on the long-term appraisal, it could have predicted a tsunami reaching a height of 15.7 meters, which was higher than the compound of the nuclear plant.

If the government had ordered TEPCO to take safeguards against tsunami of that scale by the end of 2002 based on the forecast, it could have prevented the nuclear accident, the ruling also said.

“The Fukushima District Court’s ruling acknowledged that if the government followed the long-term appraisal, it would have been able to prevent the situation in that all electric sources were lost (and, as a result, the nuclear accident occurred),” said Hitoshi Yoshioka, who served as a member of the government’s investigation committee on the nuclear accident. “The ruling pointed out again that the government and TEPCO are bearing major responsibility for neglecting to take measures (to safeguard the nuclear plant against tsunami of that scale).”