Japan’s government announced on Friday that it will increase the amount of money it is providing to the operator of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant to step up cleanup and decommissioning efforts.
The interest-free loans provided to Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) will be increased to ￥9 trillion (US$90 billion), up from the original ￥5 trillion, according to government-adopted guidelines.
The government also said it will try to recoup ￥3.6 trillion through the sale of TEPCO shares and other methods under a state-backed fund for nuclear accidents.
Originally, TEPCO was to be liable for all costs stemming from the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, but in September, the government decided to step in and provide financial help after a series of radioactive water leaks and other problems triggered public concern about TEPCO’s ability to manage the situation.
The government’s draft supplementary budget through March next year allocates nearly ￥48 billion for measures to deal with growing amounts of radioactive water at the plant, as well as the decommissioning of its three melted reactors.
Additional cleanup projects are expected to be funded through a national public works budget, media reports say.
The decommissioning of the three damaged reactors is expected to take decades and require expertise from around the world.
Also on Friday, TEPCO announced that it would create a separate entity to focus on the decommissioning and management of radioactive water beginning April.
It will be overseen by the government and its state-funded decommissioning research unit.
Experts in and outside Japan have urged such a step.
“Decommissioning is a different skill than running companies,” Lady Barbara Judge, former head of Britain’s Atomic Energy Authority, who is now an outside TEPCO adviser, said earlier this week.
“My opinion is that TEPCO should create a separate division, and that they should utilize international expertise as well as Japanese expertise,” she said.