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Press Conference by Minister Nishimura (Excerpt)

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

9:41-9:52 a.m.
Friday, April 14, 2023
In front of the Cabinet Room, 2nd floor, National Diet Building

Opening Remarks

Strengthening of Computing Infrastructure

I would like to mention two points.

First, based on the Economic Security Promotion Act, we decided today to grant a subsidy of around 4.2 billion yen to the University of Tokyo’s initiative to provide domestic companies, including startups, and students with opportunities to use the most advanced quantum computer. This will lead to the domestic development of new businesses using quantum computing and the training of human resources.

As I indicated at a recent meeting of the Semiconductor and Digital Industry Strategy Review Council, the strengthening of computing infrastructure is extremely important from the viewpoints of increasing Japan’s industrial competitiveness and ensuring economic security. We would like to further accelerate those efforts through this support measure.

The administrative staff will give you a briefing with more detailed information.

G7 Energy Ministers’ Meeting

Second, from today to April 16, I will visit Sapporo to attend the G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment. Given the recent energy situation, we are facing a phase where a very delicate balancing initiative is required in order to ensure energy security while achieving decarbonization and economic growth at the same time. At the forthcoming meeting, I would like to discuss the necessity of a realistic energy transition and the importance of developing the ecosystem, including financing for social implementation of new technologies and the quantification and visualization of contributions to emission reductions. We would also like to share those perspectives while holding bilateral meetings and using related events.

Through occasions like this, we would like to pursue the common goal of carbon neutrality along diverse paths suited to individual countries’ respective circumstances.

Question-and-Answer Session

Popularization of EVs

Q: There is a media report that at the G7 Sapporo meeting discussions will be held on EV purchase targets. What kind of argument do you intend to make with regard to measures to popularize EVs? Also, please tell me about your view on this issue in light of overseas trends, such as the U.S. EPA’s new proposal regarding exhaust gas regulations and the EU’s decision to allow the use of synthetic fuels.

A: It goes without saying that the automobile industry is facing a major turning point that may be described as a tectonic shift. Movements such as the rise of emerging companies and collaboration between and entry by different business sectors are accelerating.
Under these circumstances, in order to achieve carbon neutrality in the automobile sector, the introduction of EVs particularly has been accelerated to an extreme degree, with the pace becoming faster and faster, and that is important. We would like to share with other countries the challenges in the way of popularizing EVs, such as creating a sustainable supply chain of storage batteries and developing innovative technologies, and accelerate global efforts.
On the other hand, it is also important to explore a diverse range of technology options taking into consideration the resource constraints concerning storage batteries, increases in vehicle demand in emerging countries, and uncertainty over technology development. In other words, it is hard to tell what kind of technology will be put into practical use at what timing.
On the specific content of discussions at the G-7 ministerial meeting, I would like to refrain from making comments in advance. Coordination work is still ongoing. I am departing for Sapporo today and scheduled to hold bilateral meetings. I would like to forge common perspectives by holding a series of direct discussions with other countries’ ministers.
That said, I am aware that the United States has presented a new proposal on CO2 emission standards from 2027 onward. The United States is a large, very important market for Japan, for Japanese automakers. Companies are formulating management strategies in light of the series of steps taken by the U.S. government, such as President Biden’s announcement of new vehicle sales targets in 2021 and the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act last year. My understanding is that they are already accelerating efforts to respond to those steps.
On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, a major change that may be described as a tectonic shift is occurring. Moreover, the pace of the change is faster than expected. With a strong sense of crisis, the government will direct all available policy measures to support the challenging work that Japanese companies will undertake.
On the initiative to use synthetic fuels, I recently exchanged opinions with a German cabinet member. That is part of the pursuit of a diverse range of technology options, so we would like to hold substantive discissions on matters like that at the G7 meeting and forge common perspectives.

Restart of Nuclear Power Stations

Q: In relation to the G7 Sapporo meeting, Germany has strengthened the renewable energy initiative in light of the gravity of the Fukushima nuclear power station accident, and tomorrow, it will halt the operation of all nuclear power stations. On the other hand, in Japan, while many people are struggling with the damage inflicted by the nuclear accident, the country appears to be moving toward restarting nuclear power stations without sufficient public debate. Please tell me your thoughts about that.

A: First, when using nuclear power and considering nuclear policy, we must not, even for a moment, forget the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. We always keep it in mind that we must move forward based on the lessons of and reflections on this accident. At this time, we are adding to the Atomic Energy Basic Act a statement to the effect that we must not forget the lessons of and reflections on the Fukushima accident, including the need to avoid falling into the myth of safety. A statement like this has already been included in the basic policy for realizing GX. We will engage in the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and the reconstruction of Fukushima while never forgetting, and while squarely facing the struggles and woes of the people affected by the accident.
Individual countries should move forward toward carbon neutrality in the face of their respective energy situations while securing diverse paths. The situations and the approaches differ from country to country, so by holding substantive discussions at the G7 meeting, we would like to set a broad direction and forge common perspectives. On Japan’s part, we must never forget the lessons of and reflections on the Fukushima accident, as I mentioned just now. Acknowledging the diverse feelings that the people have toward this issue, we would like to continue to engage in steady communication and provide substantive, careful explanations about our policies—although we have already held dialogues and meetings—so that we can obtain the public’s understanding.

Abolition of Nuclear Power

Q: I have a question related to the previous one.
In Germany, the abolition of nuclear power will be completed. In one sense, that provides a clear contrast to Japan’s policy. Japan has announced a policy of continuing to promote the use of nuclear power, which is different from Germany’s. What are your thoughts on the reasons and background to the policy adopted by Japan?

A: Germany has a policy of phasing out nuclear power generation. On the other hand, it is a fact that while Russia is reducing its gas supply, the use of coal is increasing in Germany. In addition, power distribution and transmission networks, known as grids, are spread across Europe, so Germany can purchase electricity from France in the event of a power shortage, and vice versa. As you may know, France currently covers nearly 70% of its electricity needs with nuclear power. The situation there is different from the situation in Japan. European countries are connected through grids so that policies can be adopted based on individual countries’ respective circumstances and strategies.
Given the scarcity of shallow coastal seas in Japan, we are promoting offshore wind power, including the floating type. As for photovoltaic power, in terms of capacity per unit of flat area, Japan’s installed capacity is the largest among developed countries. We will promote the use of photovoltaic power, including on the roofs of public buildings. In that sense, we believe that nuclear power is necessary for simultaneously promoting a stable supply of electricity and decarbonization while utilizing renewable energy to the maximum possible extent.
While different countries face different economic conditions and energy situations, they share the broad direction of pursuing decarbonization and carbon neutrality by securing diverse paths. In doing so, they must ensure a stable supply of energy and protect people’s lives, as well as economic infrastructure and activity. Therefore, we believe that securing diverse paths suited to those different situations is important.
In any case, we intend to hold substantive discussions on these issues over the three days from today, and, based on these, to forge common a understanding and broad perspectives.

Last updated:2023-04-14