Japan nuclear crisis may cost up to 20 trillion yen
May 31, 2011, 12:30 GMT
Tokyo - Japan will have to spend up to 20 trillion yen (245 billion dollars) over the next decade coping with the aftermath of the ongoing nuclear crisis at a damaged nuclear power station, a private think tank said Tuesday.
Kazumasa Iwata, president of the Japan Center for Economic Research, said the costs of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could cost the country between 5.7 and 20 trillion yen.
Since the plant was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, it has leaked radioactive substances into the environment. The disaster left more than 15,200 dead and some 8,600 missing in north-eastern Japan.
The estimated cost includes 4.3 trillion yen to purchase all land within 20 kilometres of the plant - the current no-go zone - some 630 billion yen for compensation payments and 740 billion to 15 trillion yen to scrap the plant's reactors, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).
The government needs to undergo a drastic review of the country's nuclear energy policy in order to secure the costs, Iwata said.
For example, the government could generate some 2 trillion yen for the required fund over the next decade by freezing research and development projects linked to the design of a fast-breeder nuclear reactor, he said.
Meanwhile, the operator said highly radioactive water was flooding the basement of one of the reactor buildings, a news report said Tuesday.
TEPCO detected levels of 2 million becquerels of radioactive caesium per cubic centimetre of water in the basement of the building of reactor 1. The operator suspected that radioactive materials from the melted fuel had leaked from the reactor's pressure vessel.
The large amounts of contaminated water have prevented workers from restoring key cooling functions. Concerns are now rising as the water accumulation coincides with the onset of the rainy season.
The operator said water levels climbed faster Monday as rainfall Sunday and Monday raised the volume of highly radioactive water.
In the basement of reactor 1, the contaminated water rose by 37.6 centimetres during the 24 hours through Tuesday morning, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The levels rose in part due to emergency injections of water to cool down the overheating reactors.
The rain caused water levels in the turbine buildings of reactors 2 and 3 to rise at a faster pace of 3 to 4 millimeters per hour, NHK reported.
The water level rose by 8.6 centimetres in a tunnel extending from the building of reactor 2, it said.
TEPCO said in mid-May that it would create a water circulation system to remove radioactive substances from the water, flooding the reactor buildings and using it to cool the reactors. The new system is expected to be ready in July.
On Monday, rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded its long-term credit rating for TEPCO to junk status, down five notches to B+ from BBB.
TEPCO, which posted a loss of 1.25 trillion yen (15.3 billion dollars) in the year ending March 31, has problems coming up with funds to cover compensation payments for the nuclear disaster.
Short-term corporate rating was cut to B from A-2 and long-term bond ratings reduced to BB+ from BBB.
'TEPCO's worsening financial position increases the likelihood its lender banks could restructure its borrowings,' the rating agency reported.
Shares in the utility plunged 2.76 per cent on Tuesday.