December 27, 2011 / 3:59 AM / 9 years ago

Tepco seeks $9 billion more for Fukushima compensation

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co asked a government-backed bailout body on Tuesday for an additional 690 billion yen ($8.8 billion) to help compensate victims of the nuclear crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The silhouette of a visitor is seen behind the logo of Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, at the company's headquarters in Tokyo December 16, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

To help Japan’s biggest utility, known as Tepco, meet costs running into trillions of yen for compensation and cleanup, the government had already agreed in November to provide 890 billion yen through a bailout fund.

“We have reviewed the estimated sum of compensation after the committee addressing compensation disputes decided on additional measures to compensate victims who voluntarily evacuated,” Tepco said in a statement.

Tepco was told by an advisory panel in October it can expect to face bills for about 4.5 trillion yen in compensation in the first two years after the crisis, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Earlier this month a separate panel on compensation guidelines said Tepco can expect bills for an additional 200 billion yen, media reported.

Trade minister Yukio Edano, who oversees energy policy, is likely to approve Tuesday’s request as early as January, a source close to the matter told Reuters.

The March disaster knocked out reactor cooling systems at the plant, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, triggering meltdowns and radiation leaks that forced some 80,000 people to leave their homes.

The strains of the crisis have put Tepco’s independence in doubt, and sources told Reuters this month the government may inject about $13 billion into it as early as next summer in a de facto nationalization.

The utility, also struggling with the cost of thermal fuel to make up for the loss of nuclear power, is seeking additional loans and plans to raise corporate electricity rates in April.

The crisis has prompted the government to review its energy policy and Edano is set to announce later on Tuesday an agenda for debating reform of electricity supply.

This is expected to include separation of power generation and transmission, which could help deregulate the power sector by allowing smaller players to enter, media reports said. ($1 = 78.1000 Japanese yen)

Reporting by Yoko Kubota and Kentaro Hamada; Editing by Michael Watson

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