Japan struggling with burden of decontamination and rehabilitation of Fukushima disaster

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The Japanese government will offer around 3.3 billion dollars in reconstruction grants to communities heavily affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The move is the second round of grants to be distributed by the Reconstruction Agency.  About 1.4 billion dollars, or 43 percent of the latest expenditures, will be used for mass relocation projects.  The grants will be also used to build housing units for evacuees and to rebuild local fisheries.

The national government has set aside approximately 1.15 trillion yen in taxpayers’ money to temporarily finance decontamination work from fiscal 2011 to 2013, but the amount does not include the expenses of building facilities to temporarily store soil contaminated with radioactive substances and other relevant costs.

Some officials fear that the decontamination-related costs could reach 5 trillion yen, even though the government has not exactly predicted how much such work will cost.

In a May 10 television program, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano’s suggestion that the national government may partially bear the costs of decontaminating areas tainted with radioactive substances leaking from the tsunami-hit nuclear plant has created a stir within the Finance Ministry, in particular, fearing that the costs that the government is required to shoulder could snowball.

Edano commented, “It’s possible that the national government will bear the expenses to a certain extent as part of its responsibility.” The industry minister then said the government will choose between another raise in electricity charges, or use of taxpayers’ money to cover the costs.

“After having fully decontaminated affected areas, we’ll decide whether we’ll ask TEPCO customers to shoulder the costs or the nation as a whole to do so,” he said.

TEPCO’s rehabilitation plan, which the government has recently endorsed, makes no mention of who will bear the costs of decontamination. However, TEPCO will be forced to review the plan if it is required to fully cover the costs of decontamination, due to stiff opposition from the public to raising electricity charges and reactivating its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, which are prerequisites for its plan to improve its profitability.

Speculation is growing within the government that Edano deliberately made the controversial remarks to test public opinion on possible financial assistance to TEPCO.”I suspect that (the comment) is a trial balloon to explore the possibility of extending financial assistance to TEPCO in the future,” a government source said.

Source: Mainichi

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