Tokyo Electric Power Co. is refusing to reimburse the Environment Ministry for more than ¥30 billion that was spent to decontaminate land hit by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the ministry said Tuesday.

Under the special decontamination law adopted in August 2011, the state is responsible for leading and initially financing the decontamination effort, but it can ask Tepco, responsible for the Fukushima crisis, to pay the bill later.

Tepco has paid ¥6.7 billion so far, while the Environment Ministry has sought ¥40.4 billion.

The ministry said Tepco is unwilling to pay for work not directly involving decontamination. For instance, the bill includes costs related to public relations and research and development.

The ¥6.7 billion Tepco has paid covers direct decontamination work such as washing road surfaces and removing tainted soil.

According to a document presented by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to senior ruling party officials this month, Tepco is insisting that shouldering the cost for decontamination as damages will be “duplicate payments” because it is already compensating for land and buildings.

Tepco “has said it will continue to think over whether it will reimburse the government, so we understand that Tepco has not finalized its decision to completely refuse to pay it back,” said Satoshi Watanabe of the Environment Ministry’s cleanup team, hinting Tepco may be sued. “This situation is totally unacceptable.”

The government has budgeted about ¥1.3 trillion for decontamination, of which about ¥470 billion has been used.

Facing trillions of yen in compensation payments for the Fukushima debacle and soaring fuel costs for thermal power to replace nuclear, Tepco may not even have the means to cover the decontamination bill.

Meanwhile, METI is considering exempting Tepco from paying most of the cleanup costs.

The government has not reached a consensus on the move, which could trigger a public backlash because it would mean further taxpayer help.

METI officials believe it would be difficult to win public approval for releasing Tepco from all of the decontamination costs, but it is considering limiting the bill to the ¥470 billion that has already been used, the sources said.

Finance Minister Taro Aso indicated Tuesday that his ministry may give the green light to using government money to clean contaminated areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex.

“I wonder if we can put all the blame on Tepco, given that (nuclear policy) has been framed by the government,” Aso said.

Information from Kyodo added

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