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Perspectives: Asking gov't to pick up Fukushima disaster tab is irresponsible

The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) has informally requested that the government cover the additional costs for compensation and decontamination work in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Electric power companies, however, have to date explained that nuclear power is cheap. The stance of asking the government to pick up the tab cannot avoid being branded as irresponsible.

    Nuclear power companies are unhappy about the situation. They say that nuclear power was promoted as a government policy, but in the event of an accident the operators are the ones who have to take responsibility. Other major utilities besides Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) take the view that it is unreasonable to lay the responsibility for the disaster at TEPCO's plant onto them.

    But major power companies have raked in huge profits by operating nuclear power plants. It cannot be denied that they have relied on the myth of nuclear safety and had been lax in adopting measures to cope with a potential disaster. While they may not have expected the cost of compensation and decontamination following the Fukushima disaster to swell to such a large amount, it is nevertheless irrational to lay the financial burden on the government's shoulders. If the government takes on the responsibility, it will eventually come out of taxpayers' pockets.

    While the government initially puts up the funds through the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., the final mechanism is for power companies to cover the cost. The FEPC's move goes against the spirit of this system.

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