Tokyo, June 30 (IANS) The trial of three former executives of the company that operated the Fukushima nuclear power plant began on Friday on charges of negligence over the 2011 disaster. Also Read - 3 Big Earthquakes In Last 3 Days, Is There A Need To Worry?

The trial is the first to consider criminal prosecution of officials responsible for the plant over alleged failures to take adequate safety measures, reports Efe news. Also Read - Japan Declares State of Emergency For Tokyo, 3 Nearby Areas as COVID-19 Cases Surge

During the first session of the trial, held at the Tokyo District Court, the three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Also Read - Badminton: Saina Nehwal Confirms That She's 'Definitely in The Race' For Tokyo Olympics

“I apologise for causing the serious accident,” said Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, who was Chairman of TEPCO at the time of the acciden. But, he said, the accident “was impossible to predict”.

The prosecution says the accident at the Fukushima plant, whose reactors experienced a partial nuclear meltdown due to a failure of the cooling system, exposed people residing near the facility to highly radioactive emissions.

It also claims Katsumata and two former Vice Presidents, Sakae Muto, 67, and Ichiro Takekuro, 71, were responsible for the injuries sustained by 13 people including plant workers and armed forces personnel, and the deaths of 44 people.

The trial, expected to last until 2018, seeks to determine who is responsible for the disaster and if it could have been prevented.

An investigation by TEPCO in 2008 had already warned that if a magnitude 8 earthquake occurred off the coast of Fukushima prefecture, the power plant could have been struck by a 15 metre-high tsunami, according to the judicial investigation.

The trial will focus on determining if the three defendants were aware of the risks and if so why measures were not taken to ensure the plant’s safety.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.