Business & Tech

GE faces lawsuit over role in Fukushima nuclear disaster

A group of Japanese businesses and doctors sued General Electric Co. in Boston federal court on Friday, claiming the industrial giant was reckless and negligent in its design of the reactors and related systems at the core of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

The plaintiffs claim Boston-based GE knowingly used a reactor design at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that would fail to protect against the possible threat of earthquakes and tsunamis, a natural risk in that area.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for businesses in the area that suffered economic damage as a result of the disaster, which displaced as many as 150,000 people.

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Among other things, the lawsuit claims GE and its partners lowered a protective cliff by more than 60 feet, placing the plant and all six of its GE-designed reactors closer to the Pacific Ocean and in the path of the severe tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011.

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Afte the tsunami hit, three GE-designed reactors suffered from “entirely foreseeable flooding and resulting nuclear meltdowns,” causing the release of radioactive matter into the area surrounding the plant, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are essentially blaming GE for defective reactor design as well as for not putting in place enough safeguards to prevent the spread of radiation once the Fukushima plant was breached.

A GE spokesman said the company continues to offer sympathy for those affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

“The Japanese government and other investigative bodies long ago concluded that the Fukushima nuclear accident was caused by the tsunami, and the resulting loss of seawater pumps and all electrical power, not reactor design,” he said. “We believe these claims can and should be addressed under Japan’s nuclear compensation law, which provides relief for persons impacted by these events.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com.