The government on Feb. 7 submitted a legal revision bill to the Diet to stabilize funding for the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The subject of the revisions is the law establishing the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDF), which manages the flow of funds to nuclear accident victims and the long process of dismantling the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The revisions will require plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to set aside funds secured through corporate restructuring with the NDF. The revisions will also give the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry the right to perform spot inspections of TEPCO offices to make sure the utility is making appropriate deposits.
Furthermore, the revision bill states that TEPCO must submit a reactor decommissioning plan and a financing scheme to fund that plan to the industry ministry every fiscal year. The NDF and the industry ministry will examine the utility's decommissioning project structure, and judge if it is being properly implemented.
The government is looking to have the revisions enter force within the year, with TEPCO capital transfers to the NDF to commence as early as next fiscal year, which starts on April 1, 2017.
Last year, the industry ministry increased the total estimated cost for Fukushima No. 1 plant decommissioning from 2 trillion yen to 8 trillion yen, in preparation for the difficult work of removing the melted fuel from three of the power station's reactors.
TEPCO's annual revenues currently stand at about 400 billion yen, while reactor decommissioning alone is expected to cost some 300 billion yen per year. Nevertheless, the industry ministry believes the utility should be able to cover its obligations if it can improve its earning power through management restructuring and the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture.
However, the governor of Niigata Prefecture has been reluctant to green-light the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors, and there is no projected schedule to bring the plant back on line. In addition, it is possible that the cost of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant reactors will continue to swell.