(Reuters) - Compensation for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster will cost at least 3-4 trillion yen ($39-$52 billion), reckons a government-appointed panel looking into Tokyo Electric Power Co's finances, the Nikkei business daily reported.
Tepco, as the utility is known, will run out of cash unless it restarts idle reactors at its workhorse Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture or charges more for electricity, the paper said citing projections that will be included in the panel's upcoming report.
The compensation estimates assume that the damaged Fukushima reactors are brought to the safe state known as cold shutdown early next year and that residents evacuated from the surrounding areas return home next fiscal year, the report said.
Delays in reaching these goals would run up the bill, which will also depend on how much of the decontamination costs Tepco is made to bear, the report added.
The panel examined nine financial scenarios for the coming decade, based on when the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors might go back online (next summer, a year after that, or not at all) and how much electric rates might rise (5%, 10%, or not at all), Nikkei said.
The scenarios involving either no restart or no rate hike lead to either a cash crunch or negative net worth, the paper said.
In its report, which is due out as early as next month, the panel will include three or four of the viable scenarios and put a figure of 500-600 billion yen on the compensation money to be realized through a companywide overhaul, Nikkei added.
(Reporting by Bijoy Koyitty in Bangalore; Editing by Maju Samuel)