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The tax the government charges utilities to secure funding for possible lawsuits spawned by the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, officials said Thursday.

It could cost up to ¥240 billion to resolve problems caused by the two atomic plants in the prefecture. The radiation leak and other problems have forced evacuations, suspended corporate activities and sparked fears of food and water contamination.

The tax in question is designed to collect funds to support development in areas that host the power plants.

The move signals the government wants to avoid holding taxpayers responsible for the disaster. The power companies, however, could simply pass the tax hike on to consumers by raising prices.

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