With Fukushima nuclear plant still leaking, Japan clean-up bill soars to $50bn

Many are sceptical that government-led effort will make area habitable again

Tokyo

Japanese researchers say the cost of cleaning up from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could top $50bn (£32.6bn), more than four times the amount allocated by the government.

The figure does not include compensation for those affected by the explosion and the subsequent fallout, or the multibillion-dollar price tag for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which the government and regulators say will take at least 40 years to complete.

Three of the plant’s six reactors went into meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami that struck off Japan’s north-east coast on 11 March 2011. The meltdowns forced over 100,000 people to flee the contaminated zone around the plant, while tens of thousands more have since left the Fukushima area voluntarily. The tsunami is known to have killed more than 18,000 people, yet no one is officially listed as having died as a result of radiation released from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Workers at the plant said that they had spotted steam rising from one of the reactor buildings for the third time this week. Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the operator of the plant, said it had not been able to establish where it was coming from and was investigating the possibility that it was a rainwater leak.

On Monday, Tepco admitted for the first time that radiation is leaking into the Pacific, further complicating the clean-up operation and contradicting its earlier claims that contaminated groundwater had been contained before it had reached the ocean. The company faced severe criticism over the fact that it had sat on an internal report that revealed the groundwater leak for several days.

The head of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was established in the aftermath of the disaster, said earlier this month that he believed radioactive material had contaminating the sea close to the plant since the accident occurred

Japan’s government has allocated about $11bn (£7bn) to decontaminate the zone. Most of the money is being paid to contractors who are using power hoses and diggers to scour away dust and topsoil from the most contaminated areas, but experts from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology warn the total cost of decontaminating the evacuation zone will be about $20bn (£13bn), with another $30bn (£19.6bn) for areas further away.

Many are sceptical that the government-led clean-up effort will make the area habitable again, or that evacuees will move back. “It doesn’t matter what the government says, we’ll never go home. Most of us accept that,” says Yukiko Kameya, 68, who fled from Futaba town, next to the plant.

Tepco has yet to pay most refugees full compensation for the loss of their homes and other assets.

“The government should study the costs before deciding whether to complete decontamination or reallocate the money to help people rebuild their lives,” researcher Junko Nakanishi told state broadcaster NHK.

Tepco has received an estimated 3.5 trillion yen in public money since the disaster began. Last year, the government took majority control of the utility, allowing it to continue as a limited company with shares traded on the stock exchange.

Many observers believe the compensation process will drag on for years, adding to the final bill for the disaster. “The victims of this disaster often had large houses, rice fields, livestock and land and most had to move into small urban apartments or temporary housing,” says Yasushi Tadano, a Tokyo-based lawyer who is helping to sue Tepco. “The amount of compensation being offered is totally insufficient.” 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence