A joint lawsuit filed in Tokyo this week offers a glimmer of hope that those responsible for the Fukushima disaster might finally face justice

The 1,415 plaintiffs, including 38 Fukushima residents and 357 people from outsideJapan, said the manufacturers - Toshiba, GE and Hitachi - failed to make needed safety improvements to the four decade-old reactors at the Fukushima plant. They are seeking compensation of 100 yen ($1) each, saying their main goal is to raise awareness of the problem.

This is something Greenpeace has been demanding for a long time – that the companies that designed, supplied and built the reactors that melted down after the Japan’s 2011 catastrophic earthquake and tsunami be held responsible.

Almost three years after the Fukushima disaster began the costs are proving to be enormous. Yet, General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi have walked away without paying a cent towards the compensation for the many thousands of victims or the enormous cost of decontaminating the radioactivity spewed from their reactors.

The Fukushima disaster has shown us the shameful defects and human failures in a system that only requires nuclear reactor operators to pay a fraction of the costs of a disaster and doesn’t require the suppliers of reactors to pay anything.

The nuclear liability system in Japan must be reformed to make nuclear operators and suppliers fully responsible for their failures. 

And this could happen again anywhere in the world since the nuclear industry offers little or no help for its failures. For far too long, the nuclear industry has profited while the people pay.

(Check out our report - Fukushima Fallout: Nuclear business makes people pay and suffer – which shows how the nuclear sector evades responsibility for its failures.)

Three years of struggle is three years too many for the 150,000 Fukushima evacuees. They remain in limbo without adequate compensation and many trapped in temporary accommodation that is deteriorating.

They must be properly compensated and the companies responsible for the accident held accountable. We must get down to the inevitable job of phasing out nuclear power in favour of renewable energy, both in Japan and across the world.

Greenpeace wishes the plaintiffs in the Toshiba/GE/Hitachi lawsuit the very best of luck.

(Image: Fukushima Anniversary Protest in Tokyo. Greenpeace activists wearing “nuclear scream” masks and holding a banner with the text “They profit, you pay” next to the logos of nuclear companies Hitachi, GE and Toshiba, demonstrate in front of the Japanese parliament. © 03/07/2013 Noriko Hayashi / Greenpeace)