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Japan plans to borrow $30 billion for Fukushima cleanup – report

Published time: November 12, 2013 17:46
AFP Photo / Kimimasa Mayama / Pool

AFP Photo / Kimimasa Mayama / Pool

Japan’s government is allegedly finalizing plans to borrow some $30 billion for the cumbersome cleanup of the Fukushima nuclear power plant and the surrounding region, as well as compensating evacuees, Reuters reports citing sources.

The borrowing of three trillion Japanese Yen was spurred by months of botched efforts, nature’s surprises and human error. When the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) realized that the figure would be too high, the Japanese Government stepped in. But it now appears that more funds are necessary for the multi-billion dollar effort.

Targets for reducing radiation levels and eradicating nuclear fallout in the areas have likewise not been met.

This new borrowing initiative will put the total costs set aside for Fukushima at $80 billion. This excludes the cost of shutting down the actual reactor units, which is projected to take several decades and cost the government around $150 billion.

It will, however, include raising salaries for cleanup crews working in the surrounding region by $500 billion. This includes upping hazard pay from around $100 to $200 a day.

This information was provided to Reuters by government officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
A new facility for storing nuclear waste is also in the works as well. That waste would include not only water, but also soil and leaves collected from the surrounding contaminated townships.

In light of the mounting difficulties, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been considering changing the funding strategy for the cleanup and its associated projects, as well as taking care of reimbursing displaced residents who will never be able to return home.

It should be noted that the radius of evacuation after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown is larger than the area of Hong Kong. Some areas will remain contaminated for years to come. Of the 5 trillion yen set aside for such compensation, a little less than four trillion has already been spent.

The initial sum of a trillion and a half yen slated for decontamination has now risen to two trillion, while the total sum for the combined Fukushima effort will go up to eight trillion – from the previous five.

Part of the cleanup plan is to decontaminate the surrounding towns and villages and follow new guidelines by the International Center for Radiological Protection, which include reducing annual radioactivity levels.

TEPCO used to bare the sole responsibility for funding and cleanup, according to an agreement with the previous government. But despite the government enabling the payment of all related costs upfront – by issuing bonds – the plant operator will still owe money. But the new borrowing scheme should make the whole process more manageable.

A recent special investigation by Reuters revealed the harrowing conditions of working at the battered Fukushima Daiichi plant, which are exacerbated by very low pay and questionable attitudes to workers’ rights by the multitude of sub-contractors involved in the numerous projects.

After coming under criticism, TEPCO announced on Monday it would double wages for the thousands of workers on short-term contracts. It also promised to tighten its grip on the contractors involved, as well as take care to raise living and working conditions for workers associated with the reactor cleanup.

The new funding framework comes just as TEPCO is preparing its most ambitious and dangerous operation yet – the removal of more than a thousand spent nuclear fuel rods.