TOKYO , Dec. 20 -- ( Kyodo ) _ (EDS: FIXING 2ND GRAF, DELETING "ADDITIONAL") The government adopted new policies Friday to accelerate recovery from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, featuring more financial aid for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. and support for evacuees seeking to start new lives elsewhere. Under a set of guidelines, TEPCO will be relieved of paying part of the radiation cleanup costs outside the crippled Fukushima plant, and was ensured up to 9 trillion yen of interest-free loans from a state-backed fund so as not to disrupt payments of the compensation and decontamination costs it has to shoulder. The government drew up the guidelines based on a proposal submitted by the ruling coalition parties in November. Nearly three years have passed since the nuclear crisis began, but 140,000 Fukushima Prefecture residents still live as evacuees. "With existing policies alone, we have found that there are difficulties for people and local governments in taking new steps toward their future...so the state will play a proactive role to accelerate the revitalization of Fukushima," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of the government's nuclear disaster task force. Noting that evacuation orders could be lifted in some areas around the Fukushima plant as early as next spring, the government said in the guidelines that it will support people who plan to return to their homes promptly by offering extra compensation. But at the same time it gave up the principle of seeking the return of all evacuees to their homes, pointing to the need to prepare support measures for evacuees opting to abandon their homes in Fukushima. Evacuation orders will be lifted in areas where it is certain that the estimated annual radiation exposure is 20 millisieverts or lower, and once electricity and other services have been restored and progress has been made in decontamination efforts. To make sure that TEPCO will not face funding difficulties due to the costly projects aimed to help rehabilitate Fukushima, the government said it will lift the ceiling for interest-free loans the utility is allowed to receive from the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund to 9 trillion yen from the present 5 trillion yen . The government raised the ceiling on the assumption that compensation payments will total 5.4 trillion yen , decontamination costs will reach 2.5 trillion yen , while 1.1 trillion yen will be needed to build and manage interim storage facilities to keep waste created by decontamination work, the guidelines said. TEPCO , with the help of other nuclear power plant operators, will continue to repay the loans it used for compensation purposes. But, as for decontamination costs, the fund will seek to retrieve the money through gains earned by selling the fund-owned TEPCO shares, and the outlays for waste storage facilities will be paid from national coffers, according to the guidelines. The fund acquired a majority stake in TEPCO in return for conducting a 1 trillion yen capital injection last year to bolster the struggling utility's financial standing. While the government aims to raise the 2.5 trillion yen needed for decontamination by selling TEPCO shares, an official admitted that it is expected to be "extremely tough," stressing the need for the utility to carry out streamlining efforts and other reforms to raise its corporate value. "A reasonable period of time will be needed (until the fund will see TEPCO share prices rise and be able to sell them)," he added. The guidelines also included the government's reiterated pledge to play a bigger role in managing the massive buildup of radioactive water at the Fukushima plant, using state funds for technically difficult projects. To ensure swift decision-making and a flexible response on issues related to the Fukushima plant, TEPCO announced the same day that it will create an in-house company that will be in charge of the toxic water problems and the plant's decommissioning, which may continue for around 40 years. TEPCO decided Wednesday to permanently shut down the Nos. 5 and 6 reactors that survived the nuclear crisis, in addition to the Nos. 1 to 4 units that have suffered critical damage.
Most Popular Stories
- Koch Brothers Step up Anti-Obamacare Campaign
- FDIC Sues Big Banks Over Rate Manipulation
- SoCalGas Reaches Record Spend on Diversity Suppliers
- Stocks Close Lower Ahead of Crimea Vote
- Vybz Kartel Convicted of Murder
- U.S. Consumer Sentiment Falls in Early March
- Is Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in Andaman Sea?
- Jittery Investors Dumping Russian Stocks
- Ulta Shares Look Good on Strong Q4
- FDIC Accuses Big Banks of Fraud, Conspiracy