Fukushima nuclear crisis estimated to cost ¥11 trillion: study


The Fukushima nuclear accident will cost an estimated ¥11.08 trillion, almost double the government projection made at the end of 2011, according to a recent study by Japanese college professors.

The figure includes ¥4.91 trillion to compensate affected residents, ¥2.48 trillion for radiation cleanup work, ¥2.17 trillion to scrap the Fukushima No. 1 plant and ¥1.06 trillion to temporarily store radioactive soil and other waste generated by decontamination work, according to the study.

Kenichi Oshima, environmental economics professor at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, and Masafumi Yokemoto, professor of environmental policy at Osaka City University, calculated the costs based on materials and data released by the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

In December 2011, the government said it would cost at least ¥5.8 trillion, but Oshima and Yokemoto included some expenses that the government then said were difficult to estimate, according to the researchers.

“The costs for the accident are designed to be borne by the people through taxes and utility bills,” Oshima said.

The actual cost could be much higher, as the estimated figure does not include costs for the final disposal of radioactive material from cleanup work, while the compensation and plant decommissioning expenses are expected to increase down the road.

A separate estimate puts the cost of decontamination work as high as ¥5 trillion, double the professors’ figure.

Tepco is currently paying compensation to those affected by the Fukushima meltdowns using money provided by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. The state-backed fund has raised the limit of its payout from ¥5 trillion to ¥9 trillion.

Tepco is expected to reimburse that money in the future — meaning that electricity consumers will eventually have to bear the cost.

Critics have pointed to the ambiguous responsibilities of the state and the utility, which did not go bankrupt despite the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl accident thanks to taxpayers’ money and increased electricity rates.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to revive the nuclear industry, with Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kyushu possibly allowed to restart in the near future.

“Nuclear plant operators would become less able to make a right business judgment under the situation where the state covers the costs of accidents, as they cannot recognize risks of nuclear power generation,” said Oshima.