Government sources are said to have revealed to Kyodo news that Japan’s Environment Ministry is considering a lawsuit against Fukushima power plant utility Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) for roughly 16.5 billion yen (approx. 164.3 million US dollars) in unpaid nuclear decontamination expenses. The problem stems from a law that requires the central government to cover decontamination expenses, both directly and via subsidies to local governments, and allows TEPCO to pay the sum back later.
While TEPCO is under no deadline to repay all the funds to the government, a lack of payments means that taxpayer money is still being used for the decontamination efforts. Should the court agree and order TEPCO to make payments, interest will also apply. The Environment Ministry is betting on this as a scare tactic, hoping it will motivate TEPCO to quickly agree to payments.
The other problem is that TEPCO has not agreed to pay the same amounts the government is asking for. The Environment Ministry has requested 21.1 billion yen (210 million dollars), while the utility company has only agreed to pay back 4.4 billion yen (43.7 million dollars), unwilling the accept the 16.5 billion yen difference.
What makes this truly ridiculous, however, is that the government even expected TEPCO to make payments. In the last year, at least twice the disaster-responsible utility has asked for more money from the government in order to cover its ever-rising costs for decommissioning the Fukushima plant. And just over a year ago, TEPCO effectively went under state control after a 1 trillion yen bailout. Does the government think that by taking effectively a three-quarters ownership over a company that it doesn’t also take on its dire finances?