Tokyo Electric Power Co. faces a 1-trillion-yen ($12.5 billion) bill for cleaning up airborne radioactive contamination from the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, sources said July 11.
They said the costs will likely be passed on to businesses and households through higher electricity bills.
The huge extra cost comes on top of the approximately 2.5 trillion yen that the company must pay in compensation to victims of the nuclear accident and covers only decontamination work in fiscal 2011 and 2012.
Full-scale decontamination work in the disaster area started early this year. Under the special measures law on decontamination, passed by the Diet in 2011, the central government is responsible for coordinating that effort, but the law also stipulates that the costs must be shouldered by the electric power company and that TEPCO must “make efforts to pay the costs immediately.”
Until now, it has not been clear exactly how much the government would bill TEPCO for. The Noda administration has decided to use a total of 19 trillion yen until fiscal 2015 for recovery projects related to the Great East Japan Earthquake. The 1-trillion-yen decontamination costs allocated for fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012 are part of that figure.
Meanwhile, the government is pumping billions of yen into TEPCO to try to prevent the mounting bills from disrupting its operations.
The government’s Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund is lending funds to TEPCO to help the company pay the compensation bill, and it may set up a similar arrangement to help pay the decontamination cost.
The government is also investing directly in TEPCO, effectively making the utility a nationalized company.
In order to repay the government fund, TEPCO will have to ensure an operating profit. The electric power company is currently applying to the government for an average 10.28 percent hike in electric charges to households to cover rising fuel costs from conventional thermal power generation.
If decontamination costs mount, electricity charges could rise further unless the taxpayer shoulders part of the burden.
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