Tepco to get help with cost of cleaning up radiation

Abe tries to speed up Fukushima recovery

Kyodo

The Abe administration on Friday aired new policies for speeding up recovery from the 2011 Fukushima disaster that include more financial aid for Tokyo Electric Power Co. and more support for nuclear evacuees seeking new lives elsewhere.

Under a new set of guidelines decided Friday, Tepco is to be relieved of paying part of the radiation cleanup costs outside the Fukushima No. 1 power plant but gain additional interest-free loans from a government-backed fund to ensure it can still distribute compensation and shoulder decontamination costs.

The administration drew up the guidelines based on a proposal drafted by the ruling coalition in November. Nearly three years have passed since the crisis began, but 140,000 Fukushima Prefecture residents are still living as nuclear refugees.

“Under existing policies, we have found that there are difficulties for people and local governments in taking new steps toward their future . . . so the state will play a proactive role to accelerate the revitalization of Fukushima,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting of the nuclear disaster task force.

Hoping to lift evacuation orders in areas around the crippled plant next spring, the government said it will support people who plan to promptly return to their homes by offering extra compensation.

But at the same time, it gave up on its goal of getting everyone to return to their homes, pointing to the need to prepare support for those who opt to abandon their tainted homes.

Evacuation orders will be lifted in areas where it is certain that the estimated annual radiation exposure will be 20 millisieverts or lower, and once electricity and other services have been restored and decontamination completed.

Fearing that a lack of funds could affect the recovery, the government also reviewed the financial burdens of Tepco in relation to the compensation payments and off-site decontamination activities.

Tepco will remain responsible for compensating people and companies. It will also be asked to shoulder the costs of off-site decontamination completed or currently planned.

But to make sure that Tepco will not face funding difficulties, the government will lift the ceiling on interest-free loans it is allowed to receive from the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund to ¥9 trillion from the present ¥5 trillion.

Tepco will have to repay the loans. However, as for decontamination costs, estimated at ¥2.5 trillion so far, the fund will seek to cover them by selling its Tepco shares.

The fund acquired a majority stake in Tepco in return for a ¥1 trillion capital injection last year to keep the utility from folding.

The close to ¥1.1 trillion that will be needed to build and manage interim storage facilities for radioactive waste collected by decontamination work will be footed by taxpayers.