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Press Conference by Minister Hagiuda (Excerpt)

*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.

10:35-10:47 a.m.
Friday, January 7, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI

Opening Remarks

Visit to Southeast Asia

Happy new year.
To start off, I would like to make one comment.
I will visit Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand from January 9 to 14 to deepen economic relations with ASEAN.
The spread of COVID-19 has made clear the strong links between Japan and ASEAN through supply chains. ASEAN is also attracting worldwide attention as an economic growth center.
In particular, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand will be chairing this year's G20, CPTPP, and APEC, respectively. This will be the first time a METI Minister is visiting ASEAN countries in almost two years, and those countries are also looking forward to it. With this visit, I aim to deepen bilateral economic relationships and discover a new direction for cooperation in the economic field that will lead to Japan and ASEAN growing further in the future. This includes strengthening supply chains, creating innovations that will solve social challenges, and spurring on energy transitions.
As I am traveling while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, I would like to make every effort to ensure preventive measures are taken, with the help of the host countries.
That is all.

Question-and-Answer Session

Nuclear Energy Policy

Q: I would like to ask about nuclear energy policy.
Please tell us about specific details of the Japan-US cooperation on SMRs and fast reactors announced yesterday.
Please also share with us what the government is thinking regarding whether to commercialize and build new SMRs and fast reactors in Japan and whether to abandon nuclear fuel cycles using fast reactors.

A: At the meeting yesterday, we exchanged views on cooperation toward innovation and social implementation in a wide range of clean energy fields. While we did that, we told our US counterpart the Japanese government's intention to work on demonstrating SMRs and fast reactors through international cooperation, and they said they would welcome it.
In addition, she commented that DOE would support the Government of Japan’s policy on the discharge of ALPS treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the sea, and affirmed to continue to cooperate in public communication. Furthermore, in accordance with the Strategic Energy Plan approved by the Cabinet last October, we will promote R&D and technology verification on SMRs and fast reactors by harnessing international cooperation and innovation in the private sector. However, we are not currently considering new construction within the country.
With regard to nuclear fuel cycles, we will continue to promote initiatives that include developing fast reactors more effective in using resources as well as reducing the volume and toxicity of high-level radioactive waste.

Digital Remodeling of Japan

Q: You announced at yesterday's Industrial Structure Council meeting that a roadmap for the digital remodeling of Japan would be formulated, and it seems that the government as a whole will create such a roadmap moving forward. Please tell us your thoughts on specifically how METI will proceed considering the committee members' opinions exchanged yesterday, and current challenges you are facing.

A: I proposed at yesterday's meeting that the government as a whole should develop a roadmap for the digital remodeling of Japan regarding support framework and paths for the development of data collaboration platforms and digital infrastructure, and the digitalization of energy, transportation, and logistics infrastructure, while also taking into account technological progress.
While experts within the committee presented a number of various points, I understand that they generally agreed with the overall direction. At the same time, however, some pointed out that we should ensure facilities such as data centers are not merely constructed for their own sake, and others stated that human resource development and innovation are important.
Although I made this major proposal on the digital remodeling of Japan, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed, and the path is steep. Frankly speaking, this is not just METI's task, and must be dealt with on an All-Japan basis. Also, I believe that rather than moving forward little by little on a single fiscal year’s budget, we must move right into substantial development reflecting on the fact that our digitalization has been far slower than that of other countries.
Thus, I thought that other ministries and agencies such as the Digital Agency—not us—would potentially present a bigger vision, but there has been no such indication yet. So, I would like METI dealing with the current situation to move forward on formulating a roadmap for the digital remodeling of Japan while listening intently to experts' opinions as well as collaborating with other ministries and agencies.
Since METI alone should not be creating this, I would like to propose the outcomes from our committees to other bodies such as the Council for a Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation, and the Council for New Form of Capitalism Realization. We hope that we will firmly move forward with these efforts into a whole government initiative.

Nuclear Energy Policy

Q: I would like to ask about cooperation with the United States on developing fast reactors. There have been a succession of accidents in Japan related to them, which I believe means something problematic. What is the Japanese government's aim in cooperating in the development of this technology?

A: As stated in the Strategic Energy Plan, we must pursue all options—including nuclear power—and make progress in research and development and human resource development for the future if we are to move toward the major goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
I think you are suggesting that Joyo and Monju were not successful. However, the knowledge we gained through them and our framework and system have been praised very highly worldwide from a technical standpoint. I thus believe that this has the potential to contribute as Japanese technology in the United States, and I would like to firmly advance Japan-US cooperation in the area of fast reactors moving forward.
As I said when I was newly appointed as METI Minister, during my tenure as the Minister of MEXT, I was working on nuclear human resource development, creating innovations, and research and development of new technologies using tax payers’ money. So, I absolutely do not think we are inferior to the rest of the world. Therefore, while I believe it is necessary to broadly confer about how this technology should be used on a constant basis, I still want to continue improving the technology currently available to us.

Q: Regarding nuclear power generation, at the start of the year, the EU's European Commission announced a policy labeling nuclear power generation as a useful energy source for global warming countermeasures, and some speculate that they want to make an official decision soon. Please tell us your thoughts on this and whether it will affect Japan's energy policy.

A: I am aware of reports that the European Commission has presented a policy for handling nuclear energy within the EU taxonomy to member states and others. As I understand that the policy you mentioned is indeed being discussed among the EU member states, I would like to refrain from commenting on this matter as an outsider. In accordance with the Strategic Energy Plan approved by the Cabinet last October, Japan is working toward restarting nuclear power plants with safety as the top priority, conducting research and development aimed at improving safety, and developing human resources. There are no changes to these policies.

Last updated:2022-01-21