(Reuters) – Tokyo Electric Power Co should be stripped of the responsibility for shutting down its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to a draft proposal by a panel of Japan’s ruling party.
Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, has been widely criticized for repeated missteps, poor planning and a lack of disclosure in its efforts to clear up the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
A task force formed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suggests that responsibility for the massive work of decommissioning the Fukushima plant be stripped from the giant utility in its current form – either by creating a separate unit within Tepco, breaking the unit off as a separate company or hiving it off as a government-affiliated, but independent, administrative agency.
A person familiar with the LDP panel’s deliberations said it favors the option of creating a separate organization within Tepco to handle decommissioning – a job that could take decades as massive amounts of toxic water and spent fuel are removed and stored elsewhere.
An earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and cooling at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011, leading to three reactor meltdowns and explosions that sent a huge plume of radiation into the air and sea, forcing some 150,000 people to evacuate.
Tepco has since lost $27 billion at the plant north of Tokyo and faces massive liabilities as it decommissions the facility, compensates evacuees and pays for decontamination of an area nearly the size of Connecticut.
The report drafted by LDP policymakers notes that more than two and a half years after the Fukushima disaster “recovery from and rebuilding after the nuclear disaster remains slow.”
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