Japanese consumers will be paying for Fukushima for decades

Source: Nekkei Asian Review

TOKYO — The Japanese government on Friday roughly doubled its estimate of the total cost of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and compensating victims of the 2011 meltdowns, meaning that consumers could be paying more for electricity for a longer period of time.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry revealed the new 21.5 trillion yen ($186 billion) figure, double the outlook from 2013, through meetings with experts and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. “We don’t think it will increase further for some time, but it’s possible depending on any changes to the situation,” METI chief Hiroshige Seko told reporters.

There are concerns about whether the new 8 trillion yen budget for decommissioning the plant will be enough. Experts in Japan and abroad calculated the figure based on the Three Mile Island accident in the U.S. in 1979. But it could surge if the process to remove the melted nuclear fuel, to begin in the early 2020s, proves more difficult than expected.

The increased bill means that the public will be saddled with the costs for a longer period of time. The government had shouldered the compensation to Fukushima victims, previously estimated at 5.4 trillion yen, which plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings and other major utilities with nuclear reactors together were repaying at a pace of about 230 billion yen a year. Households and businesses were only supposed to pay more for electricity for the roughly 20 years it would have taken to pay back the amount in full.

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