Japan's government Friday approved spending $11.6 billion Cdn of public money to help the operator of the tsunami-hit nuclear power plant decontaminate the site and dismantle the reactors.


Officials at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant detected a radioactive gas associated with fission on Wednesday. (Tokyo Electric Power Co./Associated Press)

Japan's nuclear minister, Goshi Hosono, says the aid is meant as a preliminary installment to help cash-strapped Tokyo Electric Power Co. cover the massive cost of the work.

The 900 billion yen comes from the fund made up of all Japanese nuclear plant operators and the government.

The approval came after TEPCO and a state-backed fund submitted a business restructuring plan for TEPCO to cut more than 2.5 trillion yen ($32 billion) in costs over the next 10 years and reduce more than 7,000 employees.

Hosono said a more comprehensive final report is planned in March.

TEPCO has been bitterly criticized for its lack of transparency and slow response to the crisis. The application process for residents and business owners to seek compensation has also been called extremely cumbersome.

TEPCO faces billions of dollars in compensation claims from people and businesses affected by the nuclear crisis.

The controversial fund is designed to help the operator meet its responsibilities without going bankrupt. The government is contributing with zero-interest bonds that must at some point be paid back.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami cut power at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing meltdowns at its reactors and forcing nearby residents to evacuate due to radiation leaks.