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Japan’s top court orders damages for victims of Fukushima nuclear disaster

An average payout of about $3,290 was awarded to 3,700 people whose lives were devastated by the 2011 meltdown at a plant run by Tokyo Electric Power.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2018. It was struck by a massive tsunami in March 2011, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.Kimimasa Mayama / AFP via Getty Images file
/ Source: Reuters

TOKYO — Japan’s Supreme Court upheld an order for utility Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay damages of 1.4 billion yen ($12 million) to about 3,700 people whose lives were devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the first decision of its kind.

Public broadcaster NHK said the average payout of about 380,000 yen ($3,290) for each plaintiff covered three class-action lawsuits, among more than 30 against the utility, which are the first to be finalized.

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In March 2011, a massive tsunami unleashed by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast struck Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

About 470,000 people were forced to evacuate in the first few days, and tens of thousands have not yet been able to return.

Friday’s decision came as the court rejected an appeal by Tepco and ruled it negligent in taking preventive measures against a tsunami of that size, the broadcaster said.

The court withheld a verdict on the role of the government, which is also a defendant in the lawsuits, and will hold a hearing next month to rule on its culpability, NHK added.

Lower courts have split over the extent of the government’s responsibility in foreseeing the disaster and ordering steps by Tepco to prevent it.