Tokyo Electric Power Co. has only covered 2 percent of the ¥76.1 billion that municipalities have spent on decontamination work since the Fukushima nuclear crisis began in 2011, according to Environment Ministry officials.
Tepco, operator of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, has effectively refused to cover the costs of removing tainted soil and other debris gathered by the fallout-hit governments, saying it is confirming whether such payments are required by law.
The central government has paid for the cleanup work on Tepco’s behalf, but if the utility continues to balk, more taxpayer money will be needed to cover the interest payments.
Tepco has so far basically paid for decontamination work conducted directly by the central government in areas close to the nuclear plant, but it has treated decontamination work carried out by local governments in other areas in a different manner.
Under the current scheme, municipal governments are authorized to conduct decontamination in designated areas. The central government pays them first and has Tepco reimburse it for the expenses later.
A law enacted in August 2011 stipulates that Tepco bears the responsibility of paying for the decontamination work. The central government had earmarked ¥1.4 trillion for this effort, including around ¥630 billion for work done by municipal governments, by the end of fiscal 2014.
The Environment Ministry has requested that Tepco pay back ¥76.1 billion by the end of February to cover work for which costs have been finalized. Tepco has only paid ¥1.5 billion.
“It takes time for us to confirm if they were decontamination operations for which we are obliged to pay the costs,” a Tepco official said.
In response, an Environment Ministry official said Sunday that “all of our requests to Tokyo Electric Power have been made based on the law and we will continue to urge the company to pay back all the money.”
Tepco posted its first pretax profit in three years in the business year ended in March 2014 after plunging into financial difficulties following the triple core meltdowns in March 2011.
The utility is projecting a group pretax profit of ¥227 billion for the business year ending Tuesday.