TEPCO 'to be nationalised' for at least 10 years: report

TOKYO, January 21, 2012 (AFP) - The operator of Japan's crippled nuclear power plant will be effectively nationalised for at least 10 years under a plan to provide it with money to fund compensation payouts, a report said Saturday.

The funding from a public body is expected to inject one trillion yen ($13 billion) into Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), effectively putting it under state control, Kyodo reported quoting sources close to the matter.

The scheme is expected to be included in a comprehensive business plan to be finalised in March by TEPCO and the fund, named the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, the report said.

Under the plan TEPCO will remain as a listed company, it added.

The funding body will receive money from special government bonds and contributions from other utilities which have nuclear power plants in Japan.

The business plan is aimed at preventing TEPCO from becoming insolvent due to the heavy costs stemming from the world's worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 left more than 19,000 dead or missing and crippled nuclear reactors at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi plant into meltdown in Japan's northeast.

A government panel has estimated claims from victims affected by the Fukushima crisis could reach 4.5 trillion yen by 2013.

The plan is also intended to ensure that compensation payments related to the accident are swiftly made, Kyodo said.

Once TEPCO starts to generate net profits, the company is expected to be urged to pay back the financial assistance, Kyodo quoted sources as saying.

(TEPCO) will aim to get into the black in the year to March 2014 by raising household electricity charges and reactivate its idle nuclear reactors from early 2013, the news agency added.

It is hoped that TEPCO would be able to exit effective state control as early as in March 2022.

Commenting on the report, TEPCO spokeswoman Megumi Iwashita said, "Nothing has been decided up to date."