METI to support commercial facility construction in Fukushima

JIJI

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to provide financial assistance to municipalities near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to help them build commercial facilities, sources said Wednesday.

The plan is part of an effort to promote the return home of evacuees from areas affected by the meltdown calamity at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. atomic plant, the sources said. Many areas that were evacuated near the stricken complex, however, are too radioactive to be habitable, at least in the coming decades.

METI plans to include some ¥2 billion in related costs in the government’s planned supplementary budget for fiscal 2013, which ends next March, the sources said.

The subsidy program will be part of a package of measures that the government plans to compile by the end of this year to assist the nuclear evacuees’ return.

Building commercial facilities is considered helpful to bring evacuees back home, but high construction costs, estimated between ¥200 million and ¥300 million per project, are feared to place heavy financial burden on municipalities.

Eligible for the new subsidies are 11 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, including Tamura, Minamisoma and Kawamata, where an evacuation instruction was given right after the calamity started in March 2011.

The subsidies will cover three-fourths of costs to build commercial facilities that would house supermarkets, restaurants and event spaces.

The ministry initially planned to launch the subsidy program in fiscal 2014. But it decided to move up the schedule after the ruling coalition earlier this month proposed accelerating commercial facility construction in affected areas to speed up post-disaster reconstruction.