TOKYO (AFP) - Japan will nearly double financial support for the operator of Fukushima to US$86 billion (S$109 billion), as the government vowed to speed up the removal of contaminated soil and compensation for victims.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ministers on Friday held a meeting of the nuclear emergency response headquarters and adopted new guidelines they hope will speed up recovery from the disaster more than two-and-a-half years ago.
"Japan won't revive without Fukushima's restoration," Abe told the meeting.
"Our mission is to help more than 100,000 evacuees rebuild their lives as quickly as possible."
Under the guidelines, the government will lift the ceiling on public funds for Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) to 9.0 trillion yen (S$109 billion) from the current 5.0 trillion yen, the officials said.
The cash constitutes loans to the troubled firm, a fresh injection of taxpayers' money and expected capital gains from the planned sale of TEPCO shares held by a government unit in charge of sorting out the mess.
The money is expected to help TEPCO accelerate decontamination work, including by building a storage facility for tens of thousands of tonnes of soil contaminated with radiation, they said.
The embattled utility at the centre of the worst nuclear accident in a generation will also use the fund to cover compensation payments to victims.
A 9.0-magnitude quake struck off Japan's northeast coast in March 2011, triggering monster waves that swamped the Fukushima plant's cooling systems, sparking reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from around the plant, which scientists say will take four decades to clean up.
While some areas are now deemed safe for residents to return to, many others remain off-limits, and experts warn certain spots may be uninhabitable for decades because of high radiation readings.