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Japan: Tepco faces unlimited liability for nuclear disaster

Date: 3 May 2011

Tokyo Electric Power, the company responsible for the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, should be held liable to an unlimited degree according to the government. Officials are working with the company and the banks to work out how the utility could withstand the huge number of compensation claims to follow.

Tepco has been arguing for limited liability, arguing that its role as energy utility should not be undermined, and that there should be an exemption on the grounds that the incident was "a grave natural disaster of an exceptional character".

However, the government does not believe that this exemption should exist, because although the twin events of the earthquake and tsunami were extreme it should have been within the design parameters of the nuclear plant to cope. A senior Tepco executive has recently effectively conceded the point, stating that there were elements of the crisis that were 'man-made'.

It has been estimated that the final bill that Tepco faces could be as high as $130bn.

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