*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Friday, October 14, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
Revision of the Gas Business Act
I would like to say one thing. A Cabinet decision was made today on the bill to revise the Gas Business Act and the JOGMEC Act, or the Act on the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation.
Given the increasing uncertainty of supplies of LNG—a city gas resource—against the backdrop of increasing global demand, changes in the international situation and unpredictable accidents, this bill is intended to formulate a legal framework from the viewpoints of both supply and demand in the event that a serious disruption occurs in the gas supply.
On the supply side, the Gas Business Act and the JOGMEC Act will be revised to allow the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to request that JOGMEC procure LNG when it becomes difficult for private companies to procure LNG in the usual way.
On the demand side, the Gas Business Act will be revised to enable the national government to order large-scale consumers to restrict their gas use in case that gas shortages might adversely affect the national economy and citizens' lives.
We will make every effort to enact this bill quickly.
The administrative staff will explain the details later.
Nuclear Energy Policy
Q: My question is about extending the operation period of nuclear power plants. Some media reports indicate that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will suggest abolishing the current 60-year limit and enable applying for extensions limitlessly. Can you give us the facts about this and tell us what METI is currently considering regarding this extension?
A: A council under the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy has been discussing the situation surrounding operation periods and necessary changes to the system. No specific policy has been decided upon at this time.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, or NRA, which is a highly independent organization, will continue to strictly regulate nuclear power plants in order to keep them safe. That policy will not change. The government will continue to respect the NRA's decisions in discussions regarding regulations.
On such a major premise, we will continue to discuss utilization policies more deeply based on the instructions from the prime minister while hearing expert opinions so that we can reach specific conclusions by the end of the year.
Q: On the 13th, the Prime Minister of Russia issued a decree establishing a new company that Sakhalin-1 operations will be transferred to. I would like to ask you about your perception of this and how the government will respond.
A: As we have already mentioned, as Japan relies on the Middle East for more than 90% of its crude oil imports, Sakhalin-1 will continue to be an important supply source from the viewpoint of energy security.
As you have pointed out, we are aware that we must decide whether or not to agree to take part in the new company through SODECO within one month of the establishment of the company. We are reviewing the details of the conditions and procedures. Russia established a governmental decree late last night that lays out the detailed rules of the presidential decree. We are currently looking into it in detail.
I will thus refrain from speaking about what we will do moving forward, but I will say that we are working hard to confirm the facts, including whether this new company has actually been established. We will keep looking into these matters and consult with relevant parties to consider what steps we should take next.
Economic Security Promotion Bill
Q: My question is about specified important goods within the Economic Security Promotion Bill.
Batteries and semiconductors have reportedly been designated as specified goods. These are essential for the next-generation EVs, and I believe that METI has been putting effort into securing supply networks for them through actions such as compiling an industry strategy in August. What is your take on this topic?
A: Yesterday, we presented storage batteries together with seven other goods as candidates for becoming specified important goods at the Economic Security Promotion Headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party. We will discuss the matter with relevant ministries and agencies including the Cabinet Office and consider the designation as specified important goods toward the end of this year.
As you pointed out, storage batteries are important toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. They are not only important for vehicle electrification, but also essential for promoting the use of renewable energy as a major power source. Therefore, we recognize them as important goods.
As you know, METI established the Battery Industry Strategy at the end of August. We have set goals for this strategy, and we would like to move forward steadily with our efforts to achieve them.