Japan's Tepco gets slapped with new US lawsuit over Fukushima

Japan's Tepco gets slapped with new US lawsuit over Fukushima
A Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) logo is pictured on a sign .
PHOTO: Reuters

TOKYO - Tokyo Electric Power Co Holdings said on Thursday it has been hit with another lawsuit filed in a US court seeking $5 billion (S$6.81 billion) for compensation over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the second filed against the utility in a US court.

The suit filed by 157 individuals is seeking that amount to set up a compensation fund for the costs of medical tests and treatment they say they need after efforts to support the recovery from the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The utility, known as Tepco, is being sued regarding improper design, construction and maintenance, claiming compensation for physical, mental and economic damages, the company said in a statement.

A multi-plaintiff lawsuit was filed on Aug. 18, 2017, against Tokyo Electric Power Co and other parties in the Southern District Court in California, the legal information group Justia said on its website.

Tepco has been hit with more lawsuits than in any previous Japanese contamination suit over the meltdowns of three reactors at its Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo after a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Radiation forced 160,000 people from their homes, many never to return, and destroyed businesses, fisheries and agriculture.

In June, a federal appeals court cleared the way for a group of US military personnel to file a suit against Tepco over radiation exposure that they say occurred during recovery efforts on board the USS Ronald Reagan.

Tepco did not make clear whether the two suits involved the same plaintiffs but Justia has two cases listed.

Shareholders of Tepco are suing the utility's executives for a record 5.5 trillion yen (S$68.7 billion) in compensation, in a long standing case.

The company's former chairman and other executives of the company appeared in court in June to answer charges of professional negligence, in the first criminal case after the meltdowns at the plant. They all pleaded not guilty.

The criminal and civil legal cases do not threaten financial ruin for Tepco, which is backstopped by Japanese taxpayers. The company faces nearly $150 million of costs to decommission the Fukushima plant and clean up the surrounding area, according to the latest government estimate.

Tepco shares fell nearly 1 per cent on Thursday, in line with many of Japan's other utilities, before the company announced the lawsuit.

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