TOKYO Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the government will spend at least 1 trillion yen ($13 billion) to clean up vast areas contaminated by radiation from the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
"At least 1 trillion yen will be budgeted as we take on the responsibility for decontamination," Noda said in an interview with public broadcaster NHK on Thursday.
"It is a prerequisite for people to return to their homelands."
Japan faces the prospect of removing and disposing 29 million cubic meters of soil from a sprawling area in Fukushima, located 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, and four nearby prefectures.
The Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March, has spread radiation that has forced some 80,000 people to leave their homes after the government banned entry within a 20 km radius of the plant.
For decontamination work, the government has so far raised 220 billion yen and plans to allocate a further 250 billion yen in the third extra budget it is set to formalize on Friday, Noda said, adding more would come in the next fiscal year's budget.
Some experts say the cleanup bill could reach trillions of yen.
Last week, a team of visiting U.N. nuclear experts said Japan should be less conservative in removing radiation.
(Reporting by Rie Ishiguro, editing by Jane Baird)