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Decommissioning costs of Fukushima nuclear plant

Early in 2011, nuclear energy accounted for almost 30% of Japan’s total electricity production (29% in 2009). There were plans to increase this to 41% by 2017, and 50% by 2030. Nuclear power has been expected to play an even bigger role in Japan’s future.

However, an earthquake and tsunami (which killed 19,000 people) sparked meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactors in March 2011. The world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl resulted to the meltdowns of three reactors releasing radiation over a wide area, contaminating water, food and air, and forcing more than 160,000 people to evacuate.

Currently, 42 reactors are operable in Japan and potentially able to restart, and 24 of these are in the process of restart approvals. Only two out of 42 reactors were restarted in August and October 2015.

The cost of cleaning up Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may rise to several billion dollars a year, from less than US$800 million now. Recently, Japan’s government estimates the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will end up costing its operator more than 170 billion dollars. The ministry’s earlier projection of the total cost was about 98 billion dollars. The figure includes the costs of decommissioning the facility, as well as compensation and decontamination work.

The new estimates say the cost of scrapping the reactors will likely quadruple to about 70 billion dollars due to the difficulty of the task and the lengthy period of time needed to extract melted uranium fuel debris at the plant in 2018 or 2019.

It is estimated that compensation to individuals and companies will grow from the initial 47 billion dollars to about 69 billion dollars, as farming-related payouts are expected to rise. The cost of decontaminating the land is also estimated to grow from 31 billion dollars to about 49 billion dollars. Dismantling the reactors is expected to take about 40 years. (Floro Mercene)