The government is considering shouldering a larger financial burden in dealing with the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident, a mess the top government spokesman blamed on the previous administration.
The Abe administration has apparently decided that Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, cannot afford to cover all the costs related to the nuclear disaster that started in March 2011.
Based on a proposal that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will submit to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated the government would bear part of the costs for future decontamination work around the plant and to build intermediate storage facilities for radioactive debris.
The government is also expected to provide funds for decommissioning the plant’s reactors and dealing with the radioactive water leaks that continue to plague work around the site.
Suga also said the government plans to review related laws on nuclear damage compensation and the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund during the regular Diet session next year.
He said the ongoing problems related to the Fukushima disaster stem from a decision by the Democratic Party of Japan-led government.
“The previous administration wrongly took a course of having TEPCO (deal with the accident) without the involvement of the government,” Suga said in a speech in Tokyo on Nov. 4. “It’s time to review the way.”
He said the government could have been involved in certain things to alleviate the damage.
The DPJ-led government last year put the utility under virtual state control and provided loans to TEPCO via the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund. The funds are intended to pay compensation to nuclear disaster victims as well as expenses for decontamination work in the surrounding communities.
More than 10 trillion yen ($101 billion) is needed to deal with all of the Fukushima plant problems, according to estimates. But the ceiling of government loans to TEPCO under the framework is 5 trillion yen.
Under the LDP’s proposal, TEPCO will have to pay for the estimated 2 trillion yen in costs for already planned decontamination work.
The Abe administration will review the division of roles between the government and the utility based on the LDP’s proposal.
But criticism remains in both the ruling and opposition camps because the current plan means taxpayer money will be used without seeking the responsibility of TEPCO’s shareholders and creditor banks.
One LDP member said, “To gain the support of taxpayers, our priority should be to lead TEPCO into bankruptcy to take responsibility for the accident.”
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