LDP wants government to cover Fukushima decontamination costs

October 29, 2013

By SAWAAKI HIKITA/ Staff Writer

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will propose that the government cover part of the costs for decontamination work around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and all expenses to build intermediate storage facilities for radioactive debris.

The decontamination costs alone are estimated at more than 5 trillion yen (about $50 billion).

Under the current law, Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled nuclear plant, must foot the entire bill for decontamination work and compensation to residents by borrowing funds from the government. TEPCO is also required to decommission the reactors at the plant with its own funds.

But LDP officials decided that it would be impossible for TEPCO to cover all the costs. They warned that if the current system is maintained, the reconstruction of Fukushima communities could be delayed.

“While paying attention to the discussions in the party, we will consider the proposal seriously if it is submitted to the government,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference on Oct. 29.

Finance Minister Taro Aso also appeared to support what would be a drastic change in the government’s policy on who should pay for the cleanup of the Fukushima disaster.

“I have doubts on the view that all responsibilities lie only with TEPCO,” Aso said.

The party’s headquarters to accelerate Fukushima reconstruction, headed by former LDP Vice President Tadamori Oshima, will compile a proposal that includes the new policy.

The LDP will discuss the matter with junior coalition partner New Komeito and government organizations, such as the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

A final version will be submitted to the government and then be reflected in the budget for next fiscal year, which starts in April.

Beleaguered TEPCO is scheduled to soon show a revised financial rehabilitation plan to its creditors. The LDP announced the proposal to make clear the division of roles between the government and TEPCO in dealing with the Fukushima disaster before the utility’s plan is released.

Decontamination work in some communities around the nuclear plant has been completed. It was part of a huge project intended to speed up the return home of thousands of families that evacuated after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdowns at the plant in March 2011. However, radiation readings have not declined to the predicted levels, and the actual decontamination work has been criticized as sloppy and ineffective.

The Environment Ministry complained that TEPCO was refusing to cover all the costs of the decontamination work as required under the law, but it took no significant measures to force the utility to pay.

The ministry also faces difficulties finding local governments willing to host intermediate storage facilities for the huge accumulations of radioactive soil and debris removed in the decontamination process.

TEPCO, meanwhile, is still struggling to prevent radioactive water from leaking at the Fukushima plant and spilling into the ocean.

The LDP’s proposal suggests separating the divisions in charge of contaminated water and decommissioning the reactors from TEPCO, and turning them into a government-affiliated organization or a spin-off company. That way, the electric power company can concentrate on its management and compensation payments.

A government council consisting of state ministers would work out business plans of the new organization and issue instructions, according to the proposal.

By SAWAAKI HIKITA/ Staff Writer
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Bags containing radioactive debris from decontamination work are piled at a temporary site in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, in April. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Bags containing radioactive debris from decontamination work are piled at a temporary site in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, in April. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Bags containing radioactive debris from decontamination work are piled at a temporary site in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, in April. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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