The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to seek ¥4.5 billion in the government’s fiscal 2016 budget to provide financial assistance to local communities facing reductions in existing subsidies following the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, ministry sources said Wednesday.

New support measures are necessary as some aging reactors are to be decommissioned, the sources said.

The operational period for nuclear reactors is limited to 40 years in principle. They can then operate a further 20 years if approval is given by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, but the requirements to extend operations are tough and maintenance costs are high.

In April, a decision was made to decommission five aging reactors, including the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture, located in central Japan.

As a result of the decommissioning decision, the local governments in those areas will see a decline in the subsidies they are given for fiscal 2016 under the current program for support to communities hosting nuclear plants.

The National Governors Association is calling on the central government to continue providing support to host local communities until the dismantling of decommissioned reactors is completed.

The planned support program is expected to help finance new measures to shore up local economies near such reactors, the sources said.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Fukushima Prefectural Government decided to subsidize moving expenses for those who wish to return home after vacating areas outside of the designated evacuation zones after the March 2011 disaster.

To support those who aim to return to Fukushima, the prefectural government plans to offer financial assistance of up to ¥100,000 per household, the officials said.

The government has allocated ¥376 million for such expenses in a supplementary budget for September for some 5,200 households, with the aim of providing such support within the year.

“I’m taking seriously the current situation,” Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told a news conference.

According to the prefectural government, the number of people who left areas that were not affected by evacuation advisories following the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s wrecked Fukushima No. 1 plant was estimated at some 25,000 as of the end of last year.

The subsidy is expected to be offered to those who have already returned to Fukushima, on condition that they lived in temporary housing for two years or longer.

In June, the Fukushima government decided it would stop providing free housing under the disaster relief law at the end of fiscal 2016, when the financial support on moving expenses is scheduled to end as well.

It also plans to offer housing aid for low-income earners who move from temporary housing to privately rented housing for some two years starting in fiscal 2017.

Source: Japan Times