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Press Conference by Minister Hagiuda (Excerpt)

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

10:33-10:45 a.m.
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building

Opening Remarks

COVID-19 Response 

I would like to start off by saying one thing.
The number of people infected with COVID-19 is increasing rapidly, especially among the younger generation spanning from those in their teens to those in their 30s. Despite that, only about 30 to 50 percent of them have received their third vaccination. From now until the end of August, the government will promote the vaccine more strongly by actively publicizing it and encourage those in the said generation to get their third vaccination.
Last week, METI asked over 1,000 organizations under its jurisdiction to actively publicize the vaccine and to encourage their member companies to do so as well. It also went through regional Bureaus of Economy, Trade and Industry to ask industry-related departments in all 47 prefectures to encourage economic organizations and companies within their jurisdictions to do so.
Also, based on a governmental task force decision from July 29, the government additionally requested yesterday that companies not ask employees to submit additional test results when they return to work after taking sick leave, in order to avoid any further strain on medical facilities such as clinics specializing in outpatients with a fever.
We will keep working with relevant ministries and agencies to ensure that medical institutions and health centers can focus on those who are at high risk for severe illness and that medical institutions are not overwhelmed solely due to requests for clerical documents.

Question-and-Answer Session

Nuclear Energy Policy

Q: My question is about nuclear energy.
On July 29, a technology roadmap for developing advanced reactors created by the Advanced Reactor Working Group in the Nuclear Energy Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy was released by METI, the group's secretariat. It includes specific timelines such as an advanced light-water reactor to be commissioned by mid-2030. Should we be assuming that they will replace the existing reactors or be additionally installed in the future? If not, what do you think was the meaning and purpose of showing specific timelines for each technology at this time?
A: Recently, an experts' meeting was held under the Nuclear Energy Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy to discuss research and development on advanced reactors, and an interim report was created. This report summarizes what experts from various fields have been discussing to this point. The government has not determined future directions based on the report, nor does it indicate that we intend to newly construct, additionally install or have them replace the existing ones.
That being said, the government has decided that for the future, we should move forward with R&D and human resource development for advanced reactors. Some thought that it would thus be best to release a target time period for R&D that could be shared between relevant industry-academia-government parties. My understanding is that the schedule presented in this interim report is the current estimate of the target time period for R&D based on those discussions.


Q: I have a question about Sakhalin-2. At the US-Japan Economic 2+2 meeting the other day, it was mentioned that the US side had understood your explanation, but please tell us a bit more regarding what exactly they understood from your explanation. On the day when the meeting took place, it was not confirmed yet that Russia had established a new company. On the other hand, there were reports that the company currently operating Sakhalin-2 sent a notice to its Japanese customers about changing settlement accounts. Please tell us your thoughts on this as well as what METI is discussing with the Japanese companies involved. Please also let us know METI’s response to this move.

A: First of all, I have already spoken with Energy Secretary Granholm about Japan's situation and explained our way of thinking several times. I recognize that the US secretary in charge of energy fully understood what I had to say. Based on my recognition, when the conversation turned to price caps, I thus chose to talk about this issue once again with Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Raimondo as the 2+2 was my first opportunity to do so. I explained that Sakhalin-2 is an important interest for Japan and that we are bringing LNG into Japan without paying Russia large sums of money. I also noted that if Japan withdrew from the project, Russia would make an enormous profit, so it is in Japan's best interest to keep things as they are now, which, in a sense, represents an economic sanction. I will not give specific details about their reactions, but they understood Japan's position. I also felt that I could confirm that understanding at the 2+2.
 Regarding your other question, I am aware of some of the reports you spoke of, but the government is currently trying to coordinate with relevant parties to ensure a stable supply of energy. I would like to refrain from making any predictions at this time. Although we still have not heard that a new company has been established to take over the rights and obligations of Sakhalin-2's current operating company, we will continue monitoring movements regarding the Russian presidential decree.
 I believe that this item is only a matter of the account that companies pay into, so I do not see it being immediately detrimental to business and believe it was proposed simply for the Russian side's convenience.

GX Action Meeting

Q: I have one more question. Last week, just before you left the country, Prime Minister Kishida stated at the GX Action Meeting that he wants the participants to show clearly issues on which political decisions are required, such as restarting nuclear power plants. This could be seen as a way for the government to make political decisions, such as early restarting of nuclear power plants. What is your opinion on the Prime Minister's statement?

A: At the first GX Action Meeting, I said that as our stable supply of energy is currently being threatened, we need to reorganize the present and medium to long-term efforts necessary to reconstruct a stable supply. I have heard various opinions from committee members on this, including on making use of nuclear energy.
At the end of that meeting, the Prime Minister stated that he wants the committee to clearly present issues on which political decisions are required regarding actual policies for stable electricity and gas supplies. This could include institutional support for maximizing the introduction of renewable energy, storage batteries, and energy efficiency improvement; measures for restarting nuclear power plants as well as subsequent development strategies.
Based on the Prime Minister's instructions, I want to continue to thoroughly assess what measures—including nuclear energy—are necessary to ensure stable supply. Japan is trying to move forward with GX, but being in a state where we could see power outages at any time as soon as tomorrow, makes that seem unrealistic. Our first step must be hurrying to create a system that can truly provide a stable energy supply. I think this is the correct order of things.

Last updated:2022-08-26