High court upholds Fukushima damages ruling

A Japanese high court has upheld a lower court ruling that ordered the government and the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to pay compensation to those affected by the 2011 nuclear accident triggered by a tsunami.

The ruling is the first issued by an appellate court making the state accountable in lawsuits related to the nuclear accident.

The lawsuit is the largest of its kind filed over the nuclear accident, with more than 3,600 plaintiffs.

The Sendai high court handed down the ruling on Wednesday, holding the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company liable.

Presiding Judge Ueda Satoshi said it was a violation of the law for the state not to take regulatory and other necessary measures when the risk of massive tsunami could be predicted before the accident. He ordered compensation worth over 1 billion yen, or more than 9.5 million dollars.

Tokyo Electric Power Company said in a statement that it will look closely into the ruling and decide on its response.

The lawsuit was initially filed in 2013. The plaintiffs were residents of Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the accident. Some of them have continued to live in the prefecture and others evacuated after the disaster. They claimed that they lost the foundation of their livelihoods and suffered mental distress due to the accident.

Three years ago, the Fukushima district court handed down a ruling that ordered the state and TEPCO to pay compensation worth about 4.6 million dollars.