Nuclear utilities face ¥50 billion disaster fee

Kyodo

Nuclear power utilities might be ordered to chuck about ¥50 billion into the entity that’s financing Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s compensation payments for the Fukushima disaster, government sources said Monday.

The utility known as Tepco is expected to be the largest contributor to the state-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, tossing in about ¥17 billion toward its own cause.

The annual contributions are designed to make utilities that run nuclear power plants in Japan share some of the burden of the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The amounts will vary depending on the output of the nuclear plants each company runs.

Some in the government have called for the need to increase the size of the contributions, but there are also people who are cautious about the idea because the “compensation” might end up being collecting by raising electricity bills.

A conclusion on the issue is expected to be reached in March. The contributions for the current fiscal year are to be paid in fiscal 2012, which starts in April.

A total of 12 companies are required to pay up, including nine of the 10 power utilities and any companies that sell electricity to them. Okinawa Electric Power Co. is not among them, however, because it does not possess a nuclear power plant.

Under the plan, Kansai Electric Power Co. would likely have to pay about ¥8.8 billion, Kyushu Electric about ¥4.7 billion, and Chubu Electric about ¥4.4 billion.

As for Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., which does not have a nuclear power plant, its contribution is expected to be about ¥0.8 billion because it has related facilities, such as a plant that reprocesses spent nuclear fuel. The experimental plant, which in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, is currently conducting a trial run.

The 12 companies invested a total of ¥7 billion in the compensation funding body when it was established in September, but they would also have to make annual contributions, the plan says. The total amount of the annual contribution is to be decided by the fund and will require government approval.

Since beleaguered Tepco is receiving financial assistance from the funding body, the Tokyo utility is also required to repay the money to the body in the form of what is being called “special contributions.” The government is still mulling the amount of the special contributions, according to the sources.