The liability name game over Fukushima nuclear disaster

Fukushima Nuclear PlantGeneral Electric (GE) is getting bad press for their part in the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan; but they’re not being sued, as of yet. GE designed the containment systems inside the nuclear reactors of the Fukushima power plant.

The power plant and its nuclear reactors were damaged almost a month ago when a massive earthquake hit Japan. The quake was immediately followed by a powerful Tsunami; causing additional destruction in the region. There have been reports that the reactors leaked radiation into the air. The latest news tells us there is water containing radioactive contamination now leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

In Japan the government holds the plant operator responsible (in this case, Tokyo Electric Power Co.) and makes them use their insurance. If damages exceed the plant operator’s insurance, the government will cover the excess cost. If the government shows the accident was caused by a natural disaster of exceptional character, the plant operator will not be held liable and the government will pay damage costs.

General Electric says they have an excellent record of consistency and safety since the 1970’s. However, not long after the design was used in the Fukushima plant, several opponents stepped forward in protest of the durability of the design; including some of GE’s own engineers.

In the case of a class action lawsuit against GE; it will be highly difficult. The U.S. high courts have been known to dismiss cases where American companies are involved with an incident that occurred in a foreign country. Even if the case makes it to U.S. courts, the plaintiff would have to prove that GE had reasonable foreknowledge of the results that would occur from this type of catastrophe.  

The Japanese officials have not determined yet if the containment system in itself is responsible for the leaking nuclear material, or if it was a combination of damages that lead to the leaking material.

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