Japan OKs Aid For Tsunami-Hit Nuke Plant Operator

Japan's government allocated $11.5 billion of public money to help decontaminate and dismantle the tsunami-damaged reactors.

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's government Friday allocated $11.5 billion of public money to help a utility decontaminate its tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant and dismantle the reactors.

The aid is meant as a preliminary installment to help cash-strapped Tokyo Electric Power Co. cover the massive cost of the work, Japan's nuclear minister, Goshi Hosono, said.

The 900 billion yen comes from the fund made up of all Japanese nuclear plant operators and the government.

The approval came after TEPCO and a state-backed fund submitted a business restructuring plan for TEPCO to cut more than 2.5 trillion yen ($32 billion) in costs over the next 10 years and reduce more than 7,000 employees.

Hosono said a final report is planned in March.

TEPCO has been bitterly criticized for its lack of transparency and slow response to the crisis. The application process for residents and business owners to seek compensation has also been called extremely cumbersome.

Along with the huge costs of reconstruction, closing the plant and decontamination, TEPCO faces billions of dollars in compensation claims from people and businesses affected by the nuclear crisis.

The controversial fund is designed to help the operator meet its responsibilities without going bankrupt. The government is contributing with zero-interest bonds that must at some point be paid back.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami cut power at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing meltdowns at its reactors and forcing nearby residents to evacuate due to radiation leaks.

The no-go zone within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the plant was home to 80,000 people, who have no clear prospects to return.