Washington International Law Journal


Eri Osaka


This article focuses on the liability issues arising from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The radioactivity released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant inflicted catastrophic harm to people, industries, and the environment. Under Japanese law, a nuclear operator bears strict, channeling, and unlimited liability for nuclear damage unless the damage is caused by a grave natural disaster of an exceptional character. This article concludes the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that triggered this nuclear accident do not fall within this exemption because neither of them were unforeseeable nor far beyond the design basis for the reactors at the plant. Therefore, Tokyo Electric Power Company (“TEPCO”) must compensate any damages if the nuclear accident is the legally sufficient cause of them. Additionally, this article argues two entities should be legally responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Government of Japan can be liable for the nuclear damage if it failed to exercise its regulatory power over the Tokyo Electric Power Company or if its errant acts expanded the damage. General Electric, the designer of the reactors at the plant, might also be liable for the nuclear damage under U.S. law, assuming the reactors had any weaknesses in their design.

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