Fukushima nuclear clean-up costs double to £151bn
The total cost of cleaning up after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is now estimated at 22.6tr yen (£151bn), more than double the previous estimate, according to a Japanese government panel.
In 2013, Japan’s industry ministry estimated the disaster would cost about 11tr yen, including compensation to those forced to flee their homes or who lost their livelihoods, for radiation decontamination and for decommissioning the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Since then, the estimated cost of decommissioning the Fukushima plant alone has risen four-fold to 8.2tr yen, while the long-term risks associated with nuclear contamination are difficult to quantify. The costs of maintaining an interim storage facility have reportedly remained steady.
Increasing labour and construction costs are largely to blame for the rise in the price of decommissioning and officials on the government panel said the numbers could rise further still as experts learn more about the damage to the plant's reactors and determine the optimum fuel removal methods.
The entire operation is expected to take decades, with early attempts to send in specialised robots to retrieve radioactive material largely proving fruitless.
Three reactors melted down at the plant after a magnitude nine earthquake in March 2011, which caused a tsunami that devastated a large section of Japan’s northeastern coastline.
About 19,000 people were killed in the disaster, which also caused a loss of power and cooling at the Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) plant at Fukushima north of Tokyo.
The meltdowns caused explosions and a huge release of radiation that forced the evacuation of 160,000 people, many of them never to return.
The ministry is in the middle of deliberations over how to resolve the crisis as Tepco struggles with the clean-up, including how much the disaster is likely to cost and who should pay for it.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will discuss with the Ministry of Finance a possible expansion of the interest-free loan programme from 9tr yen, to help support the finances of Tepco, the Fukushima plant operator.
Japanese consumers are ultimately going to pay for the operation through rising electricity fees.