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Anger as Japan’s government is cleared of blame over Fukushima

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The 2011 tsunami in Japan, which sparked the Fukushima disaster

The 2011 tsunami in Japan, which sparked the Fukushima disaster

The 2011 tsunami in Japan, which sparked the Fukushima disaster

Japan’s Supreme Court has ruled the government is not liable for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, dismissing thousands of evacuees’ demands that the state, not just the utility, pay compensation for damage to their lives.

The ruling was the first by the top court on government responsibility for the Fukushima disaster in four compensation lawsuits filed by about 3,700 Fukushima residents.

The four-judge bench headed by Hiroyuki Kanno said the government cannot be held liable because the damage from a massive tsunami that hit the plant could not have been prevented even if the industry minister had used his regulatory authority and ordered the utility to enhance a seawall based on a tsunami estimate at that time.

The ruling, which reversed three of the four high-court decisions that declared the government responsible, could affect about 30 similar  lawsuits pending across the country.

Three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant melted after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011, releasing massive amounts of radiation in the area and displacing more than 160,000 people at one point.

“The ruling is absolutely unacceptable,” said the chief lawyer, Izutaro Managi. “The court did not squarely face or respond to the questions we raised.”

He said the ruling failed to adequately address the key question of whether the disaster was foreseeable and could have been avoided had the government taken appropriate steps.

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