The Abe administration will earmark several tens of billions of yen in this fiscal year’s supplementary budget as research and development costs for decommissioning reactors at the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The decision was revealed Dec. 28 by Toshimitsu Motegi, industry minister, in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun and other media.
The supplementary budget will be compiled in January, he added.
It will be the first time that the government will earmark a budget specifically for decommissioning reactors.
He also said that by using technologies and equipment developed with the funds, the government will also support electric power companies in the event they will phase out aging reactors.
After the nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant in March 2011, the Noda administration allocated 2 billion yen ($25 million) mainly for studies to safely decommission reactors.
With the next extra budget, the government will embark on supporting the decommissioning process.
Under the new plan, the government will develop advanced technologies by constructing facilities to study the decommissioning of reactors. It is also considering forming a group of experts for research or building facilities for experiments.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has decided to decommission its No. 1 to No. 4 reactors at its Fukushima No. 1 plant, and has allocated about 900 billion yen for the work.
Motegi said the government will support TEPCO’s decommissioning of the four reactors.
“It is important to accelerate the decommissioning of reactors," Motegi said. "The government must perform its roles to a maximum extent, including the utilization of a supplementary budget.”
The program to support the decommissioning of reactors will be used not only for the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but also for aging reactors throughout the country.
Japan has three nuclear reactors more than 40 years old. Fourteen additional reactors are more than 30 years old. They are scheduled to eventually be decommissioned.
Motegi presented the idea that electric power companies will decommission reactors while the government will support them by offering technologies for the work.
“It is necessary to divide roles between what the utility companies will do and what the government will do,” Motegi said.
However, if the government allocates money to support the decommissioning of reactors, it means that taxpayers indirectly shoulder part of the costs for that process.
Although the electric power industry says that nuclear power generation is cost-effective, the costs to decommission reactors will be passed on in higher taxes in addition to more expensive electric bills for consumers.
(This article was written by Mari Fujisaki and Eiji Zakoda.)
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