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Scrapping crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to cost ¥220 billion annually: source

Kyodo

Work to scrap the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and deal with radioactive water buildup at the site is expected to cost around ¥220 billion ($2 billion) annually over the three-year period from fiscal 2018, a source said Thursday.

It is the first time that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and the state-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., or NDF, have provided an estimate of annual costs for cleaning up the Fukushima No. 1 complex, more than seven years after the tsunami-triggered nuclear crisis.

Tepco and the NDF will soon submit the financial plan to the government to gain approval from industry minister Hiroshige Seko. The NDF, established after the Fukushima crisis started, holds a majority stake in Tepco, and instructs the utility on how to effectively decommission the plant.

The outlay plan comes as total costs to scrap the nuclear plant have ballooned. A government panel report in December 2016 raised its estimate for total decommissioning expenses to ¥8 trillion from an initial estimate of ¥2 trillion.

It was also compiled after a reserve fund managed by the NDF was set up last year to which Tepco is required to annually deposit funds to be used for decommissioning the Fukushima plant for the next 30 to 40 years. The funding plan needs to be approved by the industry minister.

Regarding costs to clean up the Fukushima No. 1 complex, Tepco has previously not disclosed specific expenses, saying that doing so would reveal the contents of contracts between private companies.

Of the ¥220 billion for fiscal 2018, which starts Sunday, around ¥70 billion has been allocated for measures against radioactive water buildup, ¥30 billion to removing fuel from spent fuel pools and ¥4 billion for research costs related to extracting melted fuel from the damaged reactors, the source said.

Around ¥30 billion, or 15 percent of the total, has been set aside as reserve funds for potential problems, it said. Tepco will also separately disburse ¥200 billion to prepare for the start of melted fuel extraction in the future, it said.

The process to scrap the plant, where three reactors experienced core meltdowns after the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, has been slow due to high levels of radiation and technical difficulties. Tepco hopes to extract melted fuel from the reactors but surveys using robots have only shown a limited picture of inside the buildings.

Radioactive water also continues to accumulate in the basements of the reactor buildings after being used to cool melted fuel in the facilities. Such contaminated water is treated to remove radioactive materials and stored in tanks but space on the premises of the plant to house the tanks is limited.