http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/309586

Japan drafts bill to help compensate Fukushima nuclear disaster

Posted Jul 26, 2011 by Alexandra Christopoulos
Politicians in Japan have passed a bill to help Tokyo Electric Power pay billions of dollars in compensation to those hurt by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.
Arial view of the nuclear power plant at Fukushima
Arial view of the nuclear power plant at Fukushima
DigitalGlobe-Imagery via Flickr.com
A lower house committee of Japan's parliament passed the bill on Tuesday, ensuring a law will soon be put in place to provide compensation to victims.
The bill proposes a fund be backed by government, Tokyo Electric and other utilities. But according to estimates, total costs could be as high as $130 billion.
Expected to pass into law as early as next month, the bill fails to detail how costs are expected to be shouldered. An annual amount of contributions and how those funds would be split among the operators are to be decided upon.
At present, utilities are operating with less than half of the 54 nuclear reactors that had been available before the March 11 earthquake, and all of those could be shut down by next May if public concerns about safety keeps rising.
Lawmakers reportedly agreed to a future review of the bailout. While the struggle to keep the plant's reactors under control continues, it is difficult to approximate how high the total cost of compensation will climb.
The March 11 disaster, which has drawn comparisons to the Chernobyl crisis more than 25 years ago, destroyed Fukushima's atomic plant and caused fuel meltdowns, as well as radiation leaks. It's been estimated 80, 000 people were forced to evacuate the surrounding area. As well, sales of farm produce have been severely affected after radiation levels exceeding safety standards were detected in beef, vegetables and tea.