*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI
Nuclear Energy Policy
Q: I would like to ask about the nuclear energy policy.
The Clean Energy Strategy presented last week on the 13th included a mention of maximizing the use of nuclear energy. The Strategic Energy Plan, on which a Cabinet decision was made last October, was designed to reduce dependence on nuclear power generation as much as possible while using it sustainably to the extent that is necessary. Will there be any changes to the nuclear energy policy? Please tell us your opinions.
A: Regarding the statement about maximizing the use of nuclear power, the intention is to maximize the use of all potential sources of energy including nuclear power on the major premise of ensuring safety, in consideration of the crisis in Ukraine and the tight supply and demand of electricity.
We will not change the existing nuclear power policy. We will continue restarting nuclear power plants with safety as the top priority, and work on R&D and human resource development with the aim of improving safety for the future.
Q: This is related to the current situation in Ukraine. I think that energy security requires both decarbonization and ending energy dependence on Russia, and if we continue to use nuclear power, there will be discussions on replacing or building new power plants. Please give us your thoughts.
A: First, as part of its policy, the government currently has no plans to replace or build new power plants. However, we are pursuing all options including nuclear power to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Under this policy, we intend to firmly advance efforts such as R&D of innovative reactors, developing human resources, and maintaining and strengthening nuclear supply chains for the future.
Q: I would like to ask about semiconductors.
Last week, you attended a roundtable discussion with representatives from the semiconductor industry, and the participants expressed opinions on strengthening cooperation between Japan and the United States and on the importance of advanced semiconductors. Again, please tell us your thoughts.
Also, there will be a Japan-US summit meeting next week. Please tell us what kind of discussions you would like to see from the two leaders.
A: Last week, I exchanged views with Prime Minister Kishida and leading experts involved with semiconductors, and I received valuable opinions on the policy direction that Japan should take to achieve the social implementation of next-generation semiconductors.
Once again, I recognized the importance of securing next-generation semiconductor technology, which is the key to implementing next-generation digital technologies such as quantum computers and AI.
I felt that in order to achieve this, instead of pursuing making everything in Japan, it was important to work with like-minded countries and use each other's strengths to develop technologies. As the Prime Minister also mentioned, I would like to incorporate these opinions into the implementation plan for the new form of capitalism and reflect them in future semiconductor policies.
On this basis, I hope the next Japan-US summit meeting will have a good discussion toward strengthening the partnership regarding semiconductors between Japan and the U.S., taking into account the Basic Principles on Semiconductor Cooperation that was agreed between U.S. Secretary of Commerce Raimondo and myself during my recent visit to the United States. METI will continue to work on strengthening semiconductor manufacturing capabilities and developing human resources while manifesting the partnership between Japan and the U.S.
The Situation in Ukraine
Q: The other day, a Russian-based power company stopped supplying electricity to Finland, and Russia began taking forceful countermeasures against sanctions. Japan has been working in coordination with the G7, but if Russia continues these acts, will they affect its solidarity? Also, what do you think about potential impacts this may have on the future energy situation, such as the risk of energy supplies being suspended leading to a rise in prices? Please give us your thoughts.
A: I am aware of the news that a Russian state-owned power company announced that it has stopped supplying power to Finland. At this time, I will refrain from predicting whether these anti-sanction countermeasures by Russia will lead to additional coordinated sanctions imposed by the G7. However, in light of Japan's fragile energy supply and demand structure, we will ensure a stable supply of energy and make careful responses in coordination with the G7 while firmly protecting citizens' lives and economic activity.
I do not think that the G7 will immediately falter because of this, yet, as I always say, there is no use putting on a brave front while the citizens have no way to move ahead. Therefore, Japan must firmly ensure a stable supply as the top priority.
We will continue to cautiously monitor the impacts that this situation will have on the international energy market and on the Japanese economy.