Govt, TEPCO ordered to pay damages

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In Japan, the court laid the responsibility for the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant that occurred in 2011, the country's authorities and the company-operator of nuclear power plants Tepco.

As John Matthews reports for NPR's Newscast unit from Tokyo, the court decided that "the government and the utility failed to act on a 2002 report that predicted a 20 percent chance of a major quake triggering a tsunami in the following 30 years". He said the regulatory authority is determined to fulfill its duty to strictly examine reactor safety under the new standard based on the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident.

However, the court ordered the government and Tepco to pay a fixed amount of 500 million yen ($4,448,160), to be distributed among the plaintiffs, saying decontamination work in the area surrounding Fukushima could take several decades.

This is the third ruling in some 30 similar lawsuits nationwide and the second one recognizing the government's responsibility for damages. Another ruling last month, however, said only TEPCO should pay 376 million yen ($3.4 million) to almost 45 former Fukushima residents.

Only the Chiba District Court dismissed claims against the state.

Fukushima power plant in Japan.

The government and Tepco, for their part, claimed the assessment was not established knowledge, and that the tsunami could not have been foreseen.

The plaintiffs in Fukushima case have called on defendants for reinstating the levels of radioactivity at their homes before the disaster, but the court rejected the request, Kyodo said.

The plaintiffs who will receive the payments are Fukushima residents who live both in and outside the evacuation zones and some plaintiffs in Ibaraki Prefecture. They sought a monthly compensation of ¥50,000 until the radiation levels return to pre-crisis level of 0.04 microsieverts per hour. The government also argued that it only obtained powers to force Tepco to take anti-flooding measures after a legislative change following the disaster. Around 55,000 people remained evacuated both within and outside Fukushima Prefecture as of the end of August.