Masao Yoshida, the former chief of the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant, cannot be questioned by prosecutors due to his failing health. But his testimony given to a government disaster investigation team five months after the nuclear disaster has now been seized and may be used to file a criminal case against him.
The report by the investigative team, released last July 2012, states that in 2008, Yoshida was head of a nuclear plant equipment management division at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima nuclear plant. He was responsible for evaluating safety measures at the plant, and at that time, they estimated the damage that would come about should a tsunami 15.7 meters in height should hit the area. He reportedly put off implementing any safety measures because it was a worst-case scenario and the probability of that occurring was very low.
TEPCO is currently being investigated on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in injury and death. But to prove their case, the prosecutors need to show that the officials could have predicted total loss of power at the plant from a tsunami and Yoshida’s testimony was crucial to that. However in Japan, disaster investigations are often used to determine the cause of the disaster rather than to prosecute any individual or company. When Yoshida and other TEPCO officials were questioned, they were not given the right to remain silent and the recorded testimony was not released to the public.
Tokai University law professor Yoshihiko Ikeda, an expert in the legal aspects of professional negligence says that the government needs to revise the rules for disaster probes so that punishment for negligence can actually be enforced.