30 Septembre 2016
September 21, 2016
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
The government plans to make the public pay an additional 8.3 trillion yen (about $83 billion) to decommission reactors at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and provide compensation for evacuees of the 2011 disaster, sources said.
The public’s money will also be used for the future decommissioning of reactors at other nuclear plants, they said on Sept. 20.
The burden will also affect families that switched from nuclear power generating utilities to new electric power companies after the liberalization of the electricity retail market for families in April this year.
Major utilities that operate nuclear plants are, in principle, required to secure funds through electricity charges to decommission their reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, is no exception.
Under the reforms of the power industry, the new electric power companies, which do not operate nuclear plants, were exempt from shouldering any burden related to nuclear power.
But the industry ministry wants to change that arrangement.
Even people in the ruling coalition and the government are criticizing the plan as an attempt to ease the burden of utilities that had long held regional monopolies.
“The plan will damage the basic idea of the reforms,” said Taro Kono, former chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
To realize the plan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry aims to submit revisions to the Electricity Business Law to the next year’s ordinary Diet session.
A government-approved organization is procuring funds from major electric power companies to assist in the eventual decommissioning of the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
However, TEPCO has asked the government for additional support because more money will be needed for the lengthy operation.
The costs to decommission the reactors at the Fukushima plant are expected to soar to 6 trillion yen from the current estimate of 2 trillion yen, according to in-house documents of the industry ministry.
The ministry also needs an additional 3 trillion yen to cover compensation payments for evacuees from the 2011 nuclear disaster and 1.3 trillion yen to decommission reactors of other nuclear plants in the future, according to the documents.
To get the new electric power companies to pay part of the 8.3 trillion yen, the ministry plans to increase power grid “usage fees,” which are paid to major electric power companies.
“It is necessary to collect costs from all of the people fairly,” said a high-ranking official of the ministry.
Some of the consumers switched to new electric power companies because they did not want to continue using electricity produced by nuclear power plants.
But the ministry official pointed out that those consumers had been using nuclear-generated electricity until March.
New electric power companies, which do not have their own power grids, have concluded contracts with only 2 percent of all households in Japan.
The ministry is concerned that if more families switch from nuclear plant operators to the new companies, it could become difficult to secure sufficient funds to cover reactor decommissioning costs.
Under the ministry’s plan, a standard family of three in areas covered by TEPCO will be required to pay an additional 180 yen every month. In areas covered by other major electric power companies, the corresponding figure will be about 60 yen.
(This article was written by Naoki Kazama and Yoichi Yonetani.)