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Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission accepts government plan not to boost compensation funds for nuclear accidents

JIJI

The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has approved a government plan to maintain at ¥120 billion the current minimum level of funds that nuclear plant operators must secure in order to finance compensation payments in the event of a nuclear accident.

The plan was included in a final draft of a report, on a review of the country’s nuclear accident compensation system, adopted Monday at the meeting of an expert panel at the commission.

The commission stopped short of raising the minimum threshold, despite calls to boost the funds due to the huge costs of compensation after the March 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The commission also decided to maintain nuclear plant operators’ current unlimited liability for compensation, which is stipulated in the law on compensation for nuclear accident damage.

The government will start seeking public comments on the draft report as early as this week. The report will be finalized at a panel meeting in October at the earliest.

Under the law, nuclear plant operators are obliged to secure up to ¥120 billion through insurance or compensation contracts with the government to prepare for a possible nuclear accident.

At Monday’s meeting, an education and science ministry official said it is difficult to raise the threshold given the levels justified under global insurance market standards.

The panel also called on the government to create a system to extend state loans to nuclear plant operators, so that they would be able to provide provisional compensation payments to people affected by nuclear accidents more quickly.

At the meeting Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, a member of the panel, said that since the central government’s basic energy policy shows its intention to continue using nuclear power it should make clearer its responsibility for ensuring damage payments to affected people.