Cost es­ti­mate dou­bled for nu­clear plant cleanup

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Tokyo

The cost es­ti­mate to clean up Ja­pan’s wrecked Fukushima nu­clear plant has dou­bled to nearly $190 bil­lion, with de­com­mis­sion­ing costs ex­pected to con­tinue to rise, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment panel on Fri­day.

The es­ti­mate raises the de­com­mis­sion­ing part of the to­tal costs to $70 bil­lion from the cur­rent $17.5 bil­lion be­cause of surg­ing la­bor and con­struc­tion costs. Panel of­fi­cials said the num­bers could still grow as ex­perts learn more about the dam­age to the plant’s re­ac­tors and de­ter­mine fuel re­moval meth­ods.

The 10-mem­ber panel was com­mis­sioned by the Trade and In­dus­try Min­istry.

Costs for com­pen­sa­tion, de­con­tam­i­na­tion of the area and waste stor­age have also grown sig­nif­i­cantly.

The plant suf­fered mul­ti­ple melt­downs fol­low­ing the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Of­fi­cials said its de­com­mis­sion­ing will take sev­eral decades.

Ris­ing cost es­ti­mates mean an in­creased bur­den on con­sumers.

Ku­nio Ito, Hi­tot­sub­ashi Univer­sity pro­fes­sor of com­merce who heads the panel, said it would be in­evitable for the plant op­er­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Power Co or TEPCO, to pass on to cus­tomers part of the costs.

The panel has been dis­cussing ways to keep TEPCO alive so that it can cover the cost that it’s re­spon­si­ble for. TEPCO has al­ready re­ceived a gov­ern­ment bailout, and the panel urged Fukushima cleanup-re­lated op­er­a­tions to ef­fec­tively stay un­der state con­trol un­til the next re­view in 2019.

TEPCO Pres­i­dent Naomi Hirose, who was sum­moned to par­lia­ment Fri­day, pledged to live up to ex­pec­ta­tions.

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