Acquittals upheld over Fukushima disaster

The Tokyo High Court has upheld a not guilty criminal verdict by a lower court that cleared former Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) executives of negligence over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power station disaster.

Former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and one-time executives Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro were all found not guilty by the Tokyo District Court in 2019, in the only criminal case to arise out of the world's worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The ruling on Wednesday to uphold the not guilty verdict sits at odds with a separate civil case brought to the Tokyo court by Tepco shareholders, which found four former executives responsible for the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Judges ordered the former executives to pay 13 trillion yen ($A142 billion) in damages in the civil lawsuit. The court judged that the executives could have prevented the disaster if they had exercised due care.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear station, about 220 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, sparking three reactor meltdowns and prompting Japan to shut down its entire fleet of nuclear reactors.