During court proceedings concerning a radioactive golf course, Tokyo Electric Power Co. stunned lawyers by saying the utility was not responsible for decontamination because it no longer “owned” the radioactive substances.
TEPCO’s argument over ownership of the radioactive substances drew a sharp response from lawyers representing the Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club and owner Sunfield.
The golf course company commissioned a radiation testing agency to check the course on Nov. 13. It detected 235,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram of grass, a level that would put the area into a no-entry zone under safety standards enforced after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. On Nov. 17, radioactive strontium at 98 becquerels per kilogram was detected in the grass and ground.
The Tokyo District Court also rejected that idea.
“It is common sense that worthless substances such as radioactive fallout would not belong to landowners,” one of the lawyers said. “We are flabbergasted at TEPCO’s argument.”
“Radioactive materials (such as cesium) that scattered and fell from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant belong to individual landowners there, not TEPCO,” the utility said. “There is room for doubt about the ability of the measuring equipment the city used and the accuracy of the records,” it said.
Asked about TEPCO’s doubts concerning the city’s radiation measurements, Nihonmatsu Mayor Keiichi Miho said, “We made the utmost efforts when we conducted the checks.”
A TEPCO official told The Asahi Shimbun that company will refrain from commenting on the legal battle.
The district court on Oct. 31 not only rejected TEPCO’s argument that radioactive fallout belongs to individual landowners, it also said the city’s radioactivity measurements were credible. Moreover, the court ruled that companies have the right to demand decontamination work by TEPCO.
But in a ruling described as inconsistent by lawyers, the court essentially freed TEPCO from responsibility for decontamination work, saying the cleanup efforts should be done by the central and local governments.
Although the legal battle has moved to a higher court, observers said that if the district court’s decision stands and becomes a precedent, local governments’ coffers could be drained.
Source: AJW Asahi
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