A report from the Asahi Shimbun newspaper says that Japan’s central government is holding back more than 60% of the 255 billion yen (approx. $2.56 billion) budget reserved for the radiation cleanup efforts in Fukushima Prefecture. They are supposed to be directly overseeing the disaster recovery efforts around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
They have also set aside a separate budget for decontamination work in the 36 other municipalities in Fukushima, where the money is deposited in a fund managed by the prefectural government. But sources say that the reason for withholding much of the money is because the government pays for the clean up costs at first, but it will eventually be billed to Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the utility that operates the Fukushima plant. Documents show that only 97 billion yen ($974 million) was used in fiscal year 2012, and 17 of the 32 municipalities who carried over their allocations to the current fiscal year have not even spent half of the budget supposed to be used for recovery efforts.
Officials in the municipal government says the Environment Ministry turns down much of their proposed cleanup methods because they’re following very strict guidelines for decontamination. So far they have refused methods like the replacement of drain spouts and other efforts that are deemed too “costly.” An official at the Fukushima Office for Environmental Restoration says that they factor in TEPCO’s opinions and approval before they make any decisions. A senior official sympathizes with the ministry’s situation, since TEPCO will in turn refuse to make payments if the methods did not meet their approval. As of now, they’ve refused to pay 15.9 billion yen ($160 million) of the 21.2 billion yen ($213 million) in central government bills because of certain “ambiguities” in the decontamination methods.
Obviously, there is a certain level of distrust among municipal government offices as they believe the central government is using excuses to curb the spending on the decontamination process, while reports also come in that the national budget for post-quake recovery efforts in other places are being diverted to irrelevant projects. If this report is indeed true, then it is obvious that the central government is still protecting TEPCO, despite the catastrophe and continuous mistakes that resulted from the incompetencies within the company.
[ via Asahi Shimbun ]