*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Friday, February 17, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
Nuclear Energy Policy
I would like to say two things.
The first one is about the extension of the operating periods of nuclear power plants.
The Basic Policy for the Realization of GX, which was approved by the Cabinet last week on the 10th, includes the ideal operating periods based on the major premise of ensuring safety. We are currently preparing for the Cabinet decision on the related bill, and Prime Minister Kishida gave instructions to me and the Minister of the Environment, Mr. Nishimura, after today's Cabinet meeting.
The first instruction is to prioritize safety over everything else regarding the operation periods of nuclear power plants. This has been the policy so far and will continue to be so in the future. Based on that policy, one of the members of the Nuclear Regulation Authority opposed the system's change. Therefore, in order to dispel people's uneasiness, we were instructed to be prepared to provide thorough explanations during deliberations in the Diet and other meetings before a Cabinet decision can be made regarding the bill.
Furthermore, as I just mentioned, safety is the top priority regarding nuclear power, and we will not promote the use of nuclear power without strengthening safety. Given that, in order to dispel people's uneasiness as much as possible, we were instructed to proceed with a thorough explanation process regarding the purpose of this policy measure, and to promote the formation of new safety regulations and the establishment of a system between the public and private sectors for proper safety inspections.
In light of Prime Minister Kishida's instructions, I, as the minister with jurisdiction over the electric power industry, held a meeting today with Mr. Ikebe, Chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, and reiterated that the extension of the operation periods should be considered on the major premise of ensuring safety, that safety should prioritize the utilization policy, and that a power plant should not operate if it does not pass a strict inspection by the Regulation Authority. Having stressed that the major premise will never change, I will request them to take all possible safety measures and respond to the inspections properly.
In addition, I will thoroughly explain the government's thinking during discussions at the Diet and various other opportunities, and provide thorough explanations to respond to the people's distrust and concern over the use of nuclear power. I will implement these measures thoroughly.
Visit to Yamaguchi and Fukuoka
Second, I will travel to Yamaguchi Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefecture from tonight until the day after tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I will visit Idemitsu Kosan's Tokuyama Plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture and inspect the construction site of their fuel ammonia import terminal and ammonia co-firing facilities. I will observe the development of the ammonia base as an industrial complex.
I will then visit EV Motors Japan in Fukuoka Prefecture. I will ask them about their plan to build an electric bus assembly plant in Japan, and also test-drive an electric bus. I will then visit Yaskawa Electric Corporation to inspect their newest research and development base and robots equipped with advanced technology. Lastly, I will visit QPS, a startup that originated from Kyushu University, and observe their plant where they manufacture small satellites.
During this business trip, I will hear about each company's latest efforts, research and development, and other activities, and use them in formulating policies toward achieving carbon neutrality and digital transformation in the future.
Q: Yesterday, the governor of Hokkaido visited Rapidus and formally requested them to construct a plant there. It seems that Rapidus is also considering Hokkaido as one of the promising choices. Please tell us your views on this move and the possibility of Rapidus constructing a plant in Hokkaido.
A: I have heard the report, as you mentioned, that the Governor of Hokkaido visited Rapidus and made a request. As the location of the new plant will be decided by Rapidus, I will refrain from commenting. I have heard from President Koike that Rapidus needs a large area suitable for a plant with potential for future expansion, and access to power, water, and human resources. I understand that the potential sites are being narrowed down from that viewpoint.
In any case, I hope that it progresses steadily, as it is a next-generation semiconductor project symbolic of cooperation between Japan and the US. Regardless of where the new plant will be constructed, I welcome the progress and acceleration of discussions on the location toward establishing the next-generation semiconductor manufacturing base in the latter half of the 2020s.
METI will support it firmly, and we will watch this trend closely. We are communicating in various ways.