The Tokyo District Court ruled in July on a lawsuit in which plaintiffs accused of manufactures of nuclear reactors, claiming that it is unfair that they are exempted from responsibilities for the accident in Fukushima though they are responsible for it and that they should indemnify for the disaster. The suit was lost to be turned down. Let’s analyze, however, the litigation to charge manufacturers of nuclear reactors.
LAW EXEMTING REACTOR BUILDERS FROM RESPOSIBILITIES VIOLATES CONSTITUTION
A group of 3,800 plaintiffs from Japan and the rest of the world contested that the law, Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which does give manufacturers of reactors immunity from responsibility of damages from accidents, violates a new human right, the No-Nuke Right (the right to live free from fear of nukes). They continue to say that the law should be annulled as it infringes the Constitution and that the manufactures must be blamed. The defendants insisted that ‘the right to live free from fear of nuclear power merely constitutes uneasiness, and therefore, it does not deserve legal protection’ and ‘damages are compensated in an appropriate way’.
The court ruling says that ‘people are allowed to demand suspension of
operation of nuclear power plants when dangers are imminent in a concrete
manner’, while it does not approve the right of plaintiffs, explaining
that ‘it is impossible to understand that should accrue the right of demanding
the reactor manufacturers to compensate for damages in an immediate, direct
and complete manner when an accident occurs on the ground that the said
right constitutes the right of personality and the right of environment’.
As for the ‘no-nuke right’, the Court did not touch on whether such a
right may be valid.
Manufacturers Operate Free from Responsibilities
Now, let’s look at the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage which the Tokyo District Court relied on in the first round of litigation. Article 1 provides: the law protects victims of accident and simultaneously it serves for sound development of nuclear industries as a goal. The logic lacks consistency. In addition, reactor builders are not covered by the definition of ‘nuclear industries’.
The reactor builders are excluded from the nuclear industries, why? This is the most controversial point of the law. The more contentious is Article 4, which specifies that the Product Liability Act is not applied to the damages attributing to operation of nuclear reactors. Article 7 sets the maximum sum of compensation as 120 billion Yen per factory or per office. Judging from the accident in Fukushima, everybody can clearly see the sum does not help compensation.
Three manufactures were charged in the lawsuit: GE Japan, Toshiba and Hitachi. They presented written replies which say to the effect that the defendants do not constitute nuclear industries and therefore do not owe responsibility for damage compensation in terms of the accident in Fukushima as the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage provides a responsibility concentration system.
The law indeed sets forth that reactor builders do not constitute nuclear industries. However, is it right for the manufacturers not to express responsibility at all?
Today the safer and more reliable reactors are being developed. That means, from the other point of view, less safe reactors have actually worked. Exemption from the Product Liability Act implicates that reactor manufactures could produce defective items, disregarding responsibility. That will cause moral hazard among them.
The time has come when manufacturers as well as those who promoted development of nuclear energy industries must sternly be accused of social responsibility.
September 6, 2016