Japan on Friday agreed to give the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant $11.5 billion to help it pay compensation to those affected by the worst atomic disaster in 25 years.
The approval for assistance is seen as key to Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s survival, coming on the day it reported a first-half net loss of more than $8 billion and forecast a huge annual deficit in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.
The government will inject some 900 billion yen ($11.5 billion) of public funds into TEPCO "soon" while the utility, which powers Tokyo and the wider Kanto region, will carry out comprehensive restructuring.
The company is also expecting to receive an additional 120 billion yen under a Japanese law related to nuclear accident compensation, meaning that in total it will receive over 1.0 trillion in funds.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano met Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) President Toshio Nishizawa at his ministry Friday and delivered the approval, a ministry official said.
"I urge you to carry out thorough management restructuring, since you will borrow a huge amount of public money," Edano said.
The bailout comes amid public anger over the company's response to the disaster and criticism that it failed to take adequate safety measures to protect the Fukushima plant from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
TEPCO said it expects a net loss of 576.3 billion yen for the current fiscal year ending March 2012, even after receiving the taxpayer money.
On a group basis, TEPCO expects an annual loss of 600 billion yen for the year through March amid cleanup and higher fuel costs as it replaces lost nuclear generation with expensive thermal power.
In the year ending March TEPCO reported the biggest-ever loss for a non-financial Japanese firm of 1.25 trillion yen.
In return for the public funds, the utility will reduce operating costs by 237.4 billion yen for the current fiscal year and slash its group workforce by 7,400 workers -- 14 percent of the total -- by March 2014.
TEPCO will also reduce pension benefits for both active workers and retirees, and maintain a 20 percent employee pay cut ushered in after the crisis, according to its business plan submitted Friday.
The restructuring plan also outlines cost cuts, asset sales and other steps required to help TEPCO meet compensation costs -- estimated by a government panel at 4.5 trillion yen by 2013 -- and secure further state help.
The company would have to slash costs by $33 billion over the next 10 years to help pay damages for the nuclear accident, the government has said.
Later in the day, TEPCO said it logged a net loss of 627.30 billion yen in April-September, compared to a year-earlier net profit of 92.29 billion yen.
TEPCO's woes began when the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami of March 11 knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, sparking meltdowns, explosions and the release of huge amounts of radiation into the environment.
Tens of thousands of people remain evacuated from homes and businesses in a 20 kilometre (12 mile) no-go zone around the plant and in pockets beyond. Fully decontaminating those areas is expected to take decades.
The task of restoring towns and villages even in lightly polluted zones is complicated, with high costs and logistical difficulties over where to store soil contaminated with radioactive material.
Radioactive hotspots have also been found hundreds of kilometres away from the Fukushima Daiichi plant in parts of Tokyo and Yokohama, with rainfall and wind patterns blamed for the uneven dispersal.
The disaster has soured the mood among the Japanese public over nuclear power, preventing the restart of most of Japan's reactors which remain offline following scheduled maintenance.
Until March, Japan relied on nuclear generation for a third of its power.
The stricken plant was in the spotlight again this week, with TEPCO forced into playing down fears of an uncontrolled chain reaction at the No. 2 reactor there, following signs of recent nuclear fission.
Engineers are still trying to bring the reactors to stable "cold shutdown" by the end of this year.
On the Tokyo Stock Exchange, shares in TEPCO lost 0.66 percent to close at 300 yen. They are down 86 percent from their close on March 10, one day before the earthquake.