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New power suppliers won't have to pay Fukushima decommissioning costs

In the background, from left, the No. 1, 2, 3, and 4 reactor buildings of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant are seen, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 31, 2016. In front are tanks used to store contaminated water. (Mainichi)

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has decided not to have new power industry entrants shoulder some of the costs of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, it has been learned.

    The industry ministry had initially considered a plan to have new electricity suppliers pay decommissioning expenses in addition to "consignment charges" necessary for power transmission if they were to use TEPCO's power grid. But the ministry gave up on the idea due in part to a backlash from the public and experts. The ministry is to deal with the issue by accumulating funds raised through TEPCO's management efforts for decommissioning expenses.

    TEPCO plans to raise 2 trillion yen for decommissioning, but it is highly likely that the utility will be several trillion yen short of the fees for scrapping the Fukushima plant because costs such as those for removing nuclear fuel (fuel debris) melted down in reactors are expected to surge in the future. With respect to the idea of tacking on consignment charges, many members of the industry ministry's expert panel on electric power market liberalization said it would be unfair to impose the burden on new power suppliers that had never used and would never use nuclear power.

    The industry ministry's expert panel, tasked with discussing costs for decommissioning and compensation as well as TEPCO's rehabilitation, has concluded that it would be "desirable" for TEPCO to raise the funds for decommissioning and other relevant purposes by reforming its management.

    Because of this, the industry ministry has abandoned a plan to add decommissioning expenses to consignment charges for new power suppliers. But the ministry plans to allow TEPCO not to reduce consignment charges even if it becomes able to do so due to improvements in its management efficiency. It will also have TEPCO contribute the balance and other funds to the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp.

    TEPCO and major utilities currently shoulder compensation payments, but new power suppliers are also paying some of the costs. Proceeds from sales of TEPCO shares will be set aside for decontamination projects, and shortfalls will be shouldered by TEPCO and other entities. Funds stemming from a power resources development promotion tax will be used for interim storage facilities.

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