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Court accepts statement in TEPCO trial to show negligence via The Asahi Shimbun

The Tokyo District Court on Sept. 5 accepted the written statement of a former Tokyo Electric Power Co. executive who claimed that his boss abruptly postponed tsunami prevention measures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2008.

The postponement reportedly occurred almost three years before the plant was engulfed by a tsunami on March 11, 2011, resulting in the most serious nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The statement was made by Kazuhiko Yamashita, former head of TEPCO’s center tasked with compiling steps against tsunami at the earthquake countermeasures, to prosecutors from 2012 to 2014. It was read out during the 24th hearing at the court on Sept. 5.

Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former TEPCO chairman, former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former TEPCO vice president, are on trial on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury from the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Yamashita’s statement, recorded by investigators, supported arguments by lawyers serving as prosecutors that “defendants postponed measures to protect the plant despite having recognized the necessity for such measures.”

To prove negligence, prosecutors are trying to show that the top executives could have predicted the height of the tsunami that swamped the plant.

Defense lawyers have argued that “the nation’s earthquake forecast was not reliable and measures against tsunami had not been decided yet.”

According to Yamashita’s statement, the three executives approved the implementation of anti-tsunami prevention measures based on earthquake forecast issued by the government professional body but later put off the enforcement of the measures at the plant.

Yamashita was originally scheduled to provide sworn testimony. Instead, Presiding Judge Kenichi Nagabuchi accepted Yamashita’s statement, saying, “(Yamashita) is not in a condition able to testify at the court.”

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