¥189 billion in public money spent on Fukushima cleanup so far

Kyodo

A total of ¥189.2 billion in taxpayers’ money has been spent since fiscal 2011 on decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and dealing with the buildup of radioactive water there, according to the Board of Audit.

The board also said Monday that Tokyo Electric Power Co. has allocated a massive amount of money for radioactive water treatment facilities and tanks that functioned only for a short period of time, with the amount totaling around ¥68.6 billion.

Tepco has spent some ¥32.1 billion on equipment to remove radioactive cesium from tainted water at the crippled plant, but the facilities stopped operating three months after the start of operations in June 2011, due mainly to equipment failure.

The utility also spent ¥16 billion to build more than 100 tanks for storing radioactive water at the plant. But Tepco is now replacing the bolt-joint tanks with more reliable containers after around 300 tons of highly tainted water was found to have leaked from one of the tanks in 2013.

The Board of Audit said it will take up to 30 years through fiscal 2044 for the government to recover ¥9 trillion it may provide to Tepco to help with compensation payments related to the nuclear crisis.

The government is raising funds to support Tepco from financial institutions by issuing bonds. Taxpayers will effectively need to shoulder ¥126.4 billion in interest payments, the board said.

The ceiling on interest-free loans to Tepco, provided through a government-backed bailout fund, has been raised to ¥9 trillion from ¥5 trillion amid the growing cost of the crisis.

By the end of 2014, Tepco had received around ¥4.5 trillion from the government-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., or NDF.

Of the ¥9 trillion, the government plans to recover an estimated ¥2.5 trillion in costs for radiation cleanup work by selling Tepco shares currently owned by NDF.

But the Board of Audit said the plan can’t be realized unless Tepco’s stock price more than doubles from the current level to ¥1,050 per share.

Tepco’s share price has dropped amid uncertainty over its business outlook. Although the company sought to bring back online its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex in Niigata Prefecture last July as key to its business turnaround plan, it remains uncertain when the company can restart it.

“The government should give sufficient consideration to ensuring the recovery of the state funds and boosting Tepco’s corporate value” to reduce the burden on taxpayers, the board said, urging Tepco to make further cost-cutting efforts.