13. Lawsuit Challenges Nuclear Power Industry Immunity from Liability in Nuclear Accidents

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A lawsuit filed by lawyers on behalf of 1,415 plaintiffs, including 38 residents of Fukushima and 357 persons from outside Japan, holds not only the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) but also Toshiba, Hitachi, and General Electric responsible for the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Historically, manufacturers and operators of nuclear power plants have been granted immunities in liability for accidents, because no insurance company anywhere in the world would agree to insure the power plants when the industry first developed. As NSNBC International reported, the Fukushima case is a “landmark challenge” to nuclear power plant manufacturers’ immunity from liability in nuclear accidents.

Toshiba, Hitachi, and General Electric manufactured the tanks developed to hold radioactive fluids back in the 1970s. Among the evidence in support of the plaintiffs’ case is a report by Japan’s Fisheries Research Agency that found radiation levels in sea life south of the plant to be 124 times more than the threshold considered safe for human consumption.

The Japanese government and TEPCO have sought to keep the situation under wraps, and the public is largely unaware of the nuclear power industry’s irresponsible actions. Inaccurate reports of the radiation damage from TEPCO, along with inadequate manpower to deal with the crisis, have resulted in poor attempts to reverse the radiation damage that resulted from the meltdown of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the March 2011 tsunami.

A senior advisor of the Fukushima cleanup, Barbara Judge, has said that foreign assistance in dealing with the nuclear cleanup is needed; however, TEPCO has withheld accurate radiation readings of the leaks, making foreign assistance impossible. The resulting poor cleanup efforts have further damaged ecosystems around Fukushima without proper supportive action to repair them.

General Electric (GE) is not being held accountable for its role in the Fukushima disaster, Chris Carrington reported, because of its ties to the Obama administration. General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt was appointed to lead the United States Economic Recovery Advisory Board by President Barack Obama in 2009. Five of the six nuclear reactors used at Fukushima were GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactor vessels; three of these were not only supplied but also built by General Electric. Since 1972, nuclear reactors of the type have been considered safety risks due to their particular vulnerability to explosion and rupture from hydrogen buildup.


“Fukushima: Landmark Lawsuit Filed against General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi,” News Network and Broadcasting Collective (NSNBC) International, January 30, 2014, http://nsnbc.me/2014/01/30/fukushima-landmark-lawsuit-filed-general-electric-toshiba-hitachi. 

Faith Aquino, “Senior Advisor for Fukushima Cleanup Says Foreign Assistance Needed,” Japan Daily Press, October 17, 2013, http://japandailypress.com/senior-adviser-for-fukushima-cleanup-says-foreign-assistance-needed-1738025.

Chris Carrington, “Why the Obama Administration Will Not Admit that Fukushima Radiation is Poisoning Americans,” Global Research, http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-the-obama-administration-will-not-admit-that-fukushima-radiation-is-poisoning-americans/5365626.

Student Researchers: Alfredo Rivas (San Francisco State University) and Paige Vreeburg (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluators: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University) and Emily Acosta Lewis (Sonoma State University)