Law on nuclear disaster compensation is enacted | Japanese Government Shoulders Weight of Responsibility for Clearing Radioactive Debris and Soil

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Legislation designed to facilitate compensation to people and businesses affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster was enacted in the Diet on Wednesday.

The new entity will provide financial assistance to Tepco only after the minister in charge approves a compensation fund program drawn up by the utility and the entity. But this approval is premised on thorough restructuring and cost-cutting efforts on the part of the utility.

The enactment has put the spotlight on industry minister Banri Kaieda, who indicated early last month he will resign from the Cabinet post at some point to take responsibility for the stalled restart of nuclear reactors operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. Passage of the bill is seen as one of the conditions for Kaieda to resign.

Under the framework, Tepco and other utilities with nuclear reactors will pay their share to the new entity annually, while the government would issue interest-free bonds to raise the necessary funds.

While details of the share that each utility will shoulder have yet to be worked out, some of the expected cost increase may eventually come from higher bills for electricity users.

A resolution was attached to the legislation saying that another law on nuclear accident compensation that specifies unlimited liability for atomic power operators will be reviewed in roughly a year.

The government would take charge of clearing radioactive debris and soil under legislation being prepared by the Democratic Party of Japan-led ruling bloc, officials said.

The legislation would compel the government to monitor radioactive substances in the environment and in designated areas and dispose of wreckage contaminated with radioactive material exceeding the safety limit.

The government would also designate areas to be investigated for possible decontamination, which if necessary would be undertaken by municipalities.

Current law is not designed to deal with a massive leak of radioactive material in the general environment, making it necessary to write new legislation to deal with the Fukushima crisis.

According to the draft by the government and the DPJ, operators of sewage and garbage disposal facilities would be required to monitor contamination of sludge and incinerator ash and report it to the government.

It also calls on municipalities in areas exposed to radiation from the Fukushima complex to check soil contamination and produce cleanup plans.

Source: search.japantimes.co.jp, via Twitter search for Fukushima
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