Japanese Government Spent Only 40% of Funds Allocated For Fukushima Cleanup
According to an article in the Asahi Shimbun, the Japanese central government in fiscal 2012 withheld more than 60 per cent of the ¥255 billion ($2.57 billion) allocated for radioactive cleanup projects overseen by 36 municipal governments in Fukushima Prefecture.
The central government deposits fund with the prefectural government, which pays for the cost of the work and then sends the bill to Tepco, the operator of the Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant.
Documents from the prefectural government showed that only 40 per cent of the allocated funds were used. 32 municipal governments carried over unused funds with 17 of them using less than half.
Apparently the main reason for these unused funds is taking Tepco’s ability to pay into account. Officials in the municipalities also say that the Environment Ministry often rejects the clean up methods proposed. There has also been delays in finding land for temporarily storing waste. Another issue is a shortage of workers to do the cleanup.
The Environment Ministry holds meetings with municipal government officials to decide on clean up methods. Discussions were held on 284 cleanup issues in fiscal 2012. It can take up to 6 months for a decision to be reached.
Asahi spoke with an official from the Environment Ministry’s Fukushima Office For Environmental Restoration, who said Tepco’s opinion must be taken into account when making decisions. “We cannot approve methods that TEPCO does not approve,” the official explained.
The paper also spoke to a senior official in the central government who agreed with the Environment Ministry’s position. “It’s only natural to negotiate matters so that TEPCO would not refuse payments,” the senior official said.
Tepco has so far refused to pay 15.9 billion yen of the 21.2 billion yen in bills from the central government, citing ambiguities in the decontamination methods. The central government will likely end up picking up the tab for the unpaid bills.
One official from the Fukushima city government was quoted as saying, “The cleanup processes will speed up only if the municipal governments are given the authority to make decisions.”
There is distrust of the central government among municipal government officials who feel the government is being overly strict in regulating the cleanup to lessen the use of funds.
So once again we see Tepco as a hindrance to the decontamination work in Fukushima. And again we see the lack of urgency on the part of the central government. So what if there’s “a bit” of radioactive stuff lying around, we’ll get around to it eventually. Such a blatant disregard towards the public health is both irresponsible and reprehensible.
As far as Tepco’s ability or willingness to pay the expenses of the cleanup, that is completely irrelevant. The responsibility of protecting its citizens from threats to the public health rest squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese government. Does not the government have the authority to force Tepco to pay seizing its assets if necessary?
Why does the central government show more deference towards Tepco than it does towards victims of the accident?Tens of thousands of evacuees are still living in evacuation centers, while the government callously drags its heels on decontamination work that might allow their return. The government can find billions of dollars for building olympic facilities while it scrimps on spending money for the important decontamination work.
It is long past time for the Japanese government to make resolving the issued surrounding the nuclear accident its number one priority. The full resources of the Japanese government must be made available for dealing with the numerous problems in Fukushima. And after more than 2 and a half years, the Japanese government needs to wake up and approach Fukushima with the sense of urgency the situation deserves.