*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Friday, July 7, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
Visit to Fukushima
To begin, I would like to mention one point.
Next Monday, on July 10, I will visit Fukushima Prefecture. I will visit Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
Last week, on June 26, the construction of the facilities for the discharge of ALPS-treated water into the sea was completed, and this week, on July 4, the IAEA’s comprehensive report was published. In light of these circumstances, I will inspect the facilities for the discharge into the sea and the Okuma Analysis and Research Center of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and closely examine the key elements of safety with my own eyes.
After that, I will provide guidance to Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the JAEA to make every possible effort to ensure safety.
Q: In relation to the discharge of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the sea, a certificate of completion of the pre-use inspection by the Nuclear Regulation Authority is expected to be granted to TEPCO today.
Following the publication of the IAEA’s comprehensive report, all preparations for the discharge have now been made. Please tell me what points the government will take into consideration when making a final decision on the discharge.
A: As you pointed out, this week, on July 4, IAEA Director General Grossi delivered to Prime Minister Kishida a comprehensive report that presents the results of the review of the safety of ALPS-treated water. In addition, today, I understand that the Nuclear Regulation Authority is expected to grant the certificate of completion of the pre-use inspection to TEPCO.
The IAEA’s comprehensive report concludes that the efforts related to the discharge of ALPS-treated water into the sea conform to relevant international standards and that the effects of the discharge of ALPS-treated water on humans and the environment will be negligible. It also indicates that after the start of the discharge, reviews and monitoring will continue to be implemented.
As for the specific timing of the discharge into the sea, the government as a whole will check the status of efforts to ensure safety and prevent reputational damage and make the decision.
I believe that it is important to explain the efforts to ensure safety and prevent reputational damage to local stakeholders including the fishermen over and over again and to appropriately respond to their concerns and requests.
On June 10, I visited the chairmen of the fishermen’s associations in Fukushima, Miyagi and Ibaraki Prefectures in person and exchanged opinions. I also met with the chairman of the fishermen’s association in Hokkaido on June 19 and with Chairman Sakamoto of the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations on June 22 and exchanged opinions while explaining the need for the discharge into the sea and conveying our intention to make efforts to ensure safety and continuously support the maintenance of fishing livelihoods.
We have listened to the fishermen’s voices of concern and misgivings over reputational damage and the maintenance of their livelihoods. We will continue to engage in close communication and provide explanations, including explaining the contents of the IAEA’s comprehensive report, in an easy-to-understand manner, and carefully respond to their opinions and requests.
Development of Generative AI
Q: A media report said that METI will provide a subsidy for a supercomputer used for development of AI by Softbank. This appears to be an initiative to promote the development of generative AI in Japan. Please tell me about METI’s objective.
A: I understand that in order to keep creating innovations into the future and from the viewpoint of economic security, it is important to build domestic development infrastructure and capacity for generative AI, which is rapidly spreading both inside and outside Japan and which has the potential to bring about major societal changes including a drastic change in working styles.
Therefore, in order to enhance computing resources and infrastructure, which are essential to the development of AI, last month, we decided to provide support to Sakura Internet. In addition, today, we decided to provide support to Softbank. Around 5.3 billion yen in subsidy will be provided for the company’s development of a supercomputer for AI. As a result, the benefits of this project will not only be reaped by Softbank itself but also be provided to outside businesses and researchers, and we expect this to accelerate efforts to develop a competitive generative AI system.
In any case, the computing infrastructure of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), which is affiliated with METI, is being used by many companies, and we would like to support private-sector initiatives like that.
Q: In relation to treated-water, which was mentioned at the beginning, please tell me about such points as how you will provide explanations in Fukushima and other disaster-affected areas and whether the administrative staff will hold explanatory meetings.
A: First, as I mentioned earlier, we will carefully explain to the local stakeholders in Fukushima the efforts to ensure safety and prevent reputational damage as well as the contents of the IAEA’s report. We will also appropriately listen to their concerns and requests.
While the administrative staff will continue to provide appropriate explanations, I will visit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in person on Monday to carefully check the efforts to ensure safety. I would like to provide appropriate explanations directly after making scheduling adjustments at an opportune time.