Japan’s industry ministry now expects the combined cost of dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to total more than 20 trillion yen (US$178.8 billion), nearly double the previous estimate, sources familiar with the matter said Monday. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which previously estimated the overall cost at 11 trillion yen, is considering passing a portion of the costs that include compensation payments and the expense of the scrapping of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on to consumers through higher electricity rates. The six-reactor plant, operated by TEPCO, was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and three of its reactors subsequently suffered meltdowns due to loss of cooling power in the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster . According to the new estimate, compensation payments will increase to 8 trillion yen from 5.4 trillion yen and decontamination costs will double at around 5 trillion yen from 2.5 trillion yen. Several additional trillion yen will be needed for decommissioning the reactors and dealing with radioactive water at the plant on top of the earlier estimate of 2 trillion yen, the sources said. The ministry has been discussing reforming the crisis-hit Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Incorporated at meetings of a panel and is set to formulate a support plan for TEPCO within the year, based on the new estimate. World cannot escape the need for nuclear power plants Combined with the cost of building interim radioactive waste storage facilities, foreseen to remain at 1.1 trillion yen, the total cost is forecast to surpass 20 trillion yen, according to the sources. The government is studying the possibility of expanding a 9-trillion-yen interest-free loan program for TEPCO that was set up through issuing government bonds to cover compensation payments and decontamination in the areas hit by the nuclear disaster. It is expected to take up to 30 years to recover the 9 trillion yen through payments from TEPCO and other big utilities. Five years after nuclear meltdown, no one knows what to do with Fukushima The government also plans to recover the expected increase in compensation payments and decontamination expenses by raising charges for the transmission line usage for new electricity retailers. TEPCO needs to secure funds on its own in principle for decommissioning the plant. The government will manage the funds, which will be established using profits to be generated by TEPCO. However, it is not clear if TEPCO alone can shoulder all the cost of decommissioning.