TOKYO, Jan. 29 (Kyodo) — The Japanese government earmarked Tuesday 156.4 billion yen ($1.7 billion USD) for the industry ministry to accelerate efforts to scrap the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's stricken reactors and support companies seeking to export nuclear technologies in the initial draft budget for the next fiscal year.
The nuclear power-related budget to be allocated to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry increased 12.4 percent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year, with the government seeking to pour in more funds to help the country recover from the 2011 Fukushima crisis and improve the safety of its nuclear power plants.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to accelerate the difficult task of scrapping the reactors that suffered core meltdowns, saying that the work cannot be left up to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. and that the state will be "at the forefront" of such efforts.
About 4.2 billion yen was allocated to support projects aimed at developing remote-controlled devices and other technologies to facilitate the decommissioning work in areas where the radiation level is high, while 2.2 billion yen was set aside for subsidies to projects that will contribute to the safety of nuclear plants.
The industry ministry is also expected to spend some 1 billion yen to support companies that conduct geological surveys for plans to build nuclear power plants in other countries, in an apparent effort to maintain the level of Japan's nuclear technology at a time when building new reactors inside the country is difficult.
While most of the nuclear reactors in Japan currently remain offline amid safety concerns in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, a total of 96.8 billion yen was set aside as subsides to be handed to local governments hosting nuclear plants, down only 1.7 percent from the fiscal 2012 initial budget.
Separately from the budget allocated to the industry ministry, a total of 72.5 billion yen was earmarked to enhance the country's nuclear regulations and nuclear disaster-mitigation measures.
Of the funds, the government plans to use about 13.8 billion yen to improve the radiation protection functions of facilities designated as emergency response centers when nuclear accidents occur.