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Fukushima nuclear plant decommissioning cost to surge

The cost of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is expected to surge from the current yearly figure of 80 billion yen to several hundred billion yen a year, a government panel has calculated.

    The cost will rise in the future partly in line with work to remove melted nuclear fuel debris from the stricken plant, the panel of experts at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry disclosed on Oct. 25. As decommissioning of the plant is expected to take at least 30 years, it is inevitable the overall decommissioning cost will far exceed the 2 trillion yen that officials initially cited. Firm figures will be released later this year.

    Experts at the meeting informally agreed to make improvements to boost the revenue of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), to limit the public's financial burden to the smallest degree possible. A proposal to separate TEPCO's nuclear power business was put forward, and officials also discussed creating a fund to enable TEPCO to continuing paying the cost of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant over a long period.

    In 2013, the government calculated that the cost of paying compensation for the nuclear disaster would reach 5.4 trillion yen, decontamination would cost 2.5 trillion yen and the construction of interim storage facilities for nuclear waste and other programs would cost 1.1 trillion yen. It accordingly handed TEPCO 9 trillion yen through the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation. However, both the compensation and decontamination costs are expected to surge by several trillion yen, and the 2 trillion yen envisaged for decommissioning the plant is expected to fall far short of the amount required.

    In a news conference following the panel meeting, a representative of the economy ministry, "In order to proceed with discussion on reforming TEPCO, there is a need to outline the general size of the cost. However, there is no clear basis for the amount, so we used phrases such as tens of billions of yen, or hundreds of billions of yen or trillions of yen."

    As a managerial reform move, officials at the meeting discussed separating TEPCO's nuclear power division and its electricity transmission and distribution divisions.

    Hendrik Gordenker, chairman of JERA Co. Inc., a company founded on an alliance between TEPCO Fuel & Power, Inc. and Chubu Electric Power Co., was among those at the meeting, where he and others explained the effectiveness of engaging in joint capital investment.

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