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Press Conference by Minister Nishimura (Excerpt)

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

11:07-11:25 a.m.
Friday, August 26, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building

Opening Remarks

Group Subsidies

At today's Cabinet meeting, a Cabinet decision was made to use around 8.1 billion yen from the reserve funds to increase the group subsidies established to help those who suffered from the earthquake that occurred on March 16 of this year off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. We will keep doing our best to reconstruct the region and help businesses that were affected by this disaster.

Question-and-Answer Session

Nuclear Power Plant Policy

Q: I have two questions about the recent GX Action Meeting.

At that meeting, I believe the prime minister made a statement about replacing existing nuclear power plants and building new ones. Gaining the public's understanding on actively utilizing these plants is necessary, but this debate is still divided after more than ten years has passed since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. What kind of efforts do you think will be necessary going forward?
Also, the Strategic Energy Plan revised last October states that we will reduce our dependency on nuclear power plants as much as possible, but some point out that the prime minister's statement contradicts that. Will it therefore need to be revised?

A: First, regarding Prime Minister Kishida's instructions, doing our absolute best to ensure a stable energy supply is an extremely important issue with the current changes that are occurring in  the domestic and international situations surrounding energy, and with the importance that  energy has in maintaining vitality in the daily lives of our citizens and industrial infrastructure. In order to ensure a stable energy supply for Japan in the future, we must restructure the energy supply. In doing so, we have to keep all of our options open—including nuclear power. I believe that we must provide the citizens with thorough and careful explanations of the energy policy issues and the steps we can take to solve them.
A council within METI will proceed with open discussion on this while getting opinions from experts, and at the same time, they will do their best to move forward and explain everything in a careful, easy-to-understand manner to enable citizens to understand well. The Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy and this council hold meetings in a completely open format and will continue to do so, so that citizens can fully understand what is happening.
The Strategic Energy Plan does state that we will reduce our dependency on nuclear power as much as possible. What it means is that we want to reduce the ratio of nuclear power from 30%—the ratio prior to the disaster—as much as possible to somewhere between 20 and 22% by 2030. This is part of our work on thoroughly conserving energy and introducing as much renewable energy as possible although the current share of renewable energy is 3.9—around 4%.
I do not think that our decision to explore every option and consider developing and building next-generation innovative reactors is inconsistent with what is stated in that plan, so I do not believe we need to change or revise it.

Q: My question is about nuclear power.
You mentioned that you are considering building new nuclear power plants, or developing and building next-generation innovative reactors, and permitting longer operational periods. Is this considered a turning point from the current nuclear power policy? 

A: The prime minister gave instructions about this at the recent GX Action Meeting. He told us to consider all possible measures to bolster renewable energy and decarbonized energy sources including nuclear power—which is necessary to move forward with GX—as viable options for the future and to reach specific conclusions by the end of the year. We have been following the fundamental principle of S+3E: ensuring energy security, economic efficiency, and environmental protection simultaneously without compromising safety. The importance of this principle is not changing, and we intend to abide by it while advancing energy policy based on the prime minister's instructions. I would like to reaffirm that we will proceed while abiding by this principle.

Q: Just to be clear, you do not see this as a shift?

A: What we are doing is starting to consider all possible measures to bolster them as viable options for the future, which we will also proceed with under the fundamental principle of S+3E, as I just mentioned. Thus, we are not presently making any major changes based on the prime minister's instructions—rather, we are starting to consider how to pursue all options and bolster them in line with that principle.


Q: This is a slightly different topic, but regarding Sakhalin-2, Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsui & Co. have reportedly decided to retain their stakes in the new Russian company. How will the government work with or support these two trading companies in order to maintain its interests in Sakhalin-2 and work toward ensuring a stable supply of LNG?
Russia's government has also notified that they will decide whether or not these companies can acquire shares within three days, but what are your views on and predictions about this?

A: I am aware that Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corporation have officially agreed to do this, and that they will apply for a stake in the new company by the deadline of September 4, after which time Russia's government will decide whether they are allowed to participate. That is just as you said.
We will keep a watchful eye on this situation, and we intend to communicate closely with both companies. At the same time, the government and private sector will work together and do our best to ensure a stable supply of LNG for Japan.

Q: My question is also about Sakhalin-2.
Moving forward, these trading companies are expected to negotiate with Russia about the conditions of the agreement. Is the Japanese government planning to push Russia in support of these companies?

A: We discuss things as needed with Russia and do what needs to be done. However, this is a diplomatic discussion, so I will refrain from saying any more.
In any case, we intend to communicate closely with both companies and do our best as the government to ensure a stable supply of LNG.

Nuclear Power Plant Policy

Q: My question is about next-generation light-water reactors and next-generation nuclear power plants. Based on documents from the working group, there are reactors that may be newly built or that will not be decommissioned such as EPR and AP1000 reactors that are called advanced light-water reactors, and then small module reactors, high-temperature gas reactors, and fast reactors will follow. However, I hear that the advanced light-water reactors being considered first are not recognized as next-generation reactors internationally, and the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority has said so as well. Please tell us about how next-generation nuclear power plants are defined for consideration. Also, is there no expectation that plants in older models than the said next-generation ones will be newly built?

A: First, regarding next-generation advanced reactors, we are moving forward with research and development on different types of reactors; as you mentioned, we are starting from advanced light-water reactors and then moving to small module reactors called SMRs, followed by fast reactors, and high-temperature gas reactors. As was mentioned in a prior question, we have also been discussing research and development goals as part of the roadmap. Naturally, discussions for future considerations will move forward as we take into account various factors, such as the status of research and development for different reactor types and the supply chains' capability to manufacture them.
It has been announced during research and development that we are adding some functions to these so-called advanced light-water reactors. This includes making a version that is partly underground, adding a device called a core catcher that can cool down the core in the event of a meltdown, and adding a device that can separate and store radioactive gases. We are taking points like these into consideration during our discussions as well.
As far as older model nuclear power plants—or the present ones—the Nuclear Regulation Authority is thoroughly assessing their safety standards, so we will respect its decisions and respond accordingly.

Q: Is there still no expectation that any of those older model reactors will be newly built?

A: We are starting to consider what we will do moving forward, and our instructions from the prime minister are related to developing and building new and next-generation advanced reactors. However, we will keep all options open and bolster them in order to secure a stable supply of energy. We will advance our considerations toward reaching conclusions by the end of the year.

Last updated:2022-09-09