Dealing with the aftermath of Fukushima Daiichi’s meltdown will cost twice as much as originally expected

Original Japanese written by Kay Ikezumi, Secretary General, No Nuke Project

The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese

The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

The cost of dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown has doubled. Japan’s national government plans to provide more loans to TEPCO.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has estimated that the cost of dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, including the decommissioning, compensation paid to those affected, etc., could grow to some 21.5 trillion yen (USD195.5 billion, at USD = JPY110). Two major reasons for this are (1) decommissioning work is taking longer than originally expected, and (2) much more in compensation to affected farmers is necessary. This new estimate doubles the total cost from the former estimate of some 11 trillion yen.

To help the operator of the devastated nuclear power plant, TEPCO, finance this massive cost, Japan’s national government has announced a plan to increase the maximum interest-free loan available to the power company from 9 trillion yen to 14 trillion. Yet how is the government going to finance this increase? It plans to finance it from increased usage rates for power provided by TEPCO and other major power companies. In short, the consumers of power will have to bear the burden of the expanded loans to TEPCO. This new estimate is to be presented to the relevant committees of the METI and the investigation committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), in November, turned its back on its own “rule of 40 years” for nuclear power stations’ operation and gave the go-ahead to the “life prolongation” of Unit 3, Mihama Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), located in Fukui, Japan, and operated by the Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO). This was the third outdated reactor whose life prolongation was approved by the NRA, after Units 1 and 2 of KEPCO’s Takahama NPP, also located in Fukui, a prefecture situated in the middle of Japan along the Japan Sea coast. Moreover, Japan has seven other NPP reactors that have been in operation in excess of four decades and, including those seven, the nation has sixteen reactors in all that have been in operation longer than 30 years. If the NRA stays on its current path, we will see more and more outdated reactors put back to work, which increases the risk of another major accident. Any such an accident will lead to heavier financial burdens in its aftermath.

Compensation, decontamination, decommissioning, and…. We have yet to see an end to any of these issues. We cannot let the current nuclear power policies remain as they are. If we do, more lives will be wasted, and Japan could be bankrupted.

Germany has determined to abolish all its NPPs by 2022, and there have been firm moves to make Europe nuke-free. Taiwan has moved to the nuke-free road, deciding to abolish its NPPs by 2025. Both Germany and Taiwan have learned precious lessons from Fukushima. Both governments have listened to the voices of their people. Why can’t Japan’s government do the same?

Japan is carrying an ever-expanding financial burden, and has experienced many unexpected tragedies from the use of nuclear power. Japan should be a leader in a worldwide movement to set our planet free of nuclear power. That should be a major part of the compensation paid to those affected by the Fukushima meltdown.

(Original Japanese written on December 8th, 2016)