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Cost to scrap Fukushima nuclear plant massively underestimated, Japanese
A revised figure expected by the end of the year could be more than
double the current price tag
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 October, 2016, 4:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 October, 2016, 11:13pm
The cost of cleaning up Tokyo Electric Power’s wrecked Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear plant may rise to several billion dollars a year, from less than
US$800 million now, Japan’s industry ministry said on Tuesday.
The increased cost projections appeared in ministry documents prepared
for a panel tasked with devising a viable financial plan for the utility
company known as Tepco, which is struggling to cope with rising costs at
its Fukushima plant nearly six years after the world’s worst nuclear
disaster since Chernobyl.
Japan’s Minister of the Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshige Seko,
told reporters after the panel meeting, its second, that the government
will provide a firmer estimate for annual decommissioning costs for the
nuclear plant by the end of the year,
Surging decommissioning costs are being addressed by the panel but it is
also looking into options including a break up of Tepco, which is under
state control after an earthquake and tsunami sparked meltdowns at the
Fukushima reactors in March 2011.
“A combination among nuclear operators is one possibility,” Yojiro
Hatakeyama, a director at the industry ministry overseeing the
electricity and gas industries, told reporters.
He did not elaborate on the government’s estimate for annual
decommissioning costs after repeated questioning from reporters.
Experts say any move to merge atomic operations is likely to meet strong
resistance from Japan’s other nuclear operators.
Japan has 10 nuclear operators and all have been hit by the political
fallout from the disaster, which has undermined public faith in atomic
energy. All but two of Japan’s 42 reactors are in shutdown mode.
Tepco shares were up 1 per cent by 0509 GMT, while the general market
and other operators also gained.
The briefing material for the panel said the clean-up may require
several hundred billion yen, or several billion US dollars, of funds
every year, compared with 80 billion yen (US$766 million) now.
And these estimates are likely to surge when the company and the
government decide how to extract melted uranium fuel debris at the plant
in 2018 or 2019, a person with direct knowledge of discussions on
restructuring Tepco said earlier this month.
The meltdowns of three reactors released radiation over a wide area,
contaminating water, food and air, and forcing more than 160,000 people
Dismantling the reactors is expected to take about 40 years, but Tepco
is still struggling to contain radioactive water from the plant and has
said it can’t predict the eventual total costs of the clean-up and
Tepco wants the government to consider introducing rules to avoid having
to book a single huge exceptional loss as soon as cost estimates for
decommissioning become clearer, a person familiar with the situation
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