Japan’s government announced on Friday that it would increase the amount of money it was providing to the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to step up clean-up and reconstruction efforts.
The interest-free loans provided to Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) will be increased to 9 trillion yen (HK$670,000) up from 5 trillion yen, according to government-adopted guidelines.
The government also said it would try to recoup 3.6 trillion yen through the sale of TEPCO shares or other schemes under the state-backed fund organisation for nuclear accidents.
Originally, Tepco was to be liable for all costs stemming from the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
But in September, the government decided to step in and provide financial help after contaminated water leaks and other mishaps triggered public concern about Tepco’s ability to manage the situation.
The government’s draft supplementary budget through March next year allocates nearly 48 billion yen for measures to deal with contaminated water leaks and storage of radioactive water at the plant, as well as the decommissioning of its three melted reactors.
Additional clean-up projects are expected to be funded through a national public works budget, local media reports say.
The decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi’s three wrecked reactors is expected to take decades and require expertise from around the world.
Japan is incapable of safely decommissioning it alone, experts say. Unlike the United States and some European countries, Japan has never decommissioned a full-fledged reactor.
Three of Fukushima Daiichi's six reactors melted down after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, making what is ordinarily a challenging operation even more complex.
Decommissioning a nuclear power plant normally involves first bringing the reactor cores to stable shutdown and then eventually removing them for long-term storage. It is a process that takes years.
Throughout, radiation levels and worker exposure must be monitored. At Fukushima, there is the daunting challenge of taking out cores that suffered meltdown, which is the most dangerous type of nuclear-power accident.