Officials check for radiation on children evacuated from the area near the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Friday it has nearly doubled its projections for costs related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, including decommissioning and compensation, to 21.5 trillion yen (US$188 billion).

In 2013, the ministry had calculated the cost at 11 trillion yen. The new government projection calls for 7.9 trillion yen to be paid in reparations, compared with the earlier estimate of 5.4 trillion.

And twelve trillion yen will be needed for decontamination and to decommission the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co, over the next four decades, more than double the 4.5 trillion forecast three years ago.

Storage units for contaminated soil will cost 1.6 trillion yen, 500 billion yen more than its earlier estimate, the ministry said in a statement.

In what was the world’s worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986, three reactors melted at the plant after a magnitude 9 earthquake struck Japan in March 2011, triggering a tsunami that devastated a swathe of Japan’s northeastern coastline, killing more than 15,000 people and shutting down reactor cooling at Fukushima.

Subsequent explosions released massive amounts of radiation, forcing the evacuation of 160,000 people from areas around the plant. Many of those residents are unlikely to ever return to their homes.

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