Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary
REPORTER: I would like to ask a question in relation to the energy policy review. On Saturday, during his visit to Aomori Prefecture, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Edano made a statement to the effect that the Government approved the resumption of the nuclear power stations under construction, including Oma and Shimane Nuclear Power Stations. The day before that, Minister Furukawa stated that this was "undecided." When did the Government decide to resume the nuclear power stations under construction?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: This has been decided from some time ago. In other words, permission for the installation of nuclear reactors and authorization of the construction plan had already been granted for the nuclear power stations currently under construction. The decision on the latest strategy does not nullify these permissions and authorizations. That is to say that the Nuclear Regulation Authority will be dealing with the forthcoming steps and confirming the safety from its independent position.
REPORTER: If that is the case, why didn't Minister Furukawa on Friday, when the strategy was decided, not touch on those circumstances, and instead, stated that "it was still undecided." What was the reason for the Government responding to the media's questions in this way?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: There may have been a slight misunderstanding on the part of Mr. Furukawa. In any case, it is as I stated a moment ago.
REPORTER: I believe the Government decided on a zero nuclear power strategy based on a policy of not constructing any more nuclear power stations. This policy of "not constructing any more nuclear power stations" did not even have any binding effect on this latest decision of the current administration. What is your personal view of this situation?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I believe I have responded to this carefully a number of times, including at the time of the strategy's announcement. This is a program that will continue over the long-term. We have just decided on the direction of this strategy. There will be, for example, many challenges ahead. These of course include the nuclear fuel cycle issue, relations with the international community, and furthermore, the issue of new renewable energies. At this point in time, we cannot foresee clearly what developments there will be in new renewable energies by such and such a time. Also, there is the issue of the future international energy situation. In other words, there is no definite outlook for the entire situation. In this sense, as is stated in the document, the strategy identifies that we need to be modest and be able to deal with future situations flexibly. This is the major policy target or political target or goal of the Government that was presented in the strategy. It presents that the path to this goal must be examined with flexibility.
REPORTER: With this latest approval of the construction of Oma and Shimane Nuclear Power Stations, essentially, the only specific policy that the Noda Cabinet has decided in its nearly one year in office becomes the construction of new nuclear power stations. No concrete decisions, after all, have been made to decommission any nuclear power stations. Only the plan to construct new nuclear power stations has made any headway. Moving forward, how and by around when will the Government decide on a specific decommissioning policy?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I believe that is a bit of an overstatement. If you take a look at the three principles of the latest strategy, you will see that we have decided to uphold the stipulated rules regarding forty-year limitation of the operation (of nuclear power plants). You can therefore foresee in what order the nuclear power stations will be decommissioned, with some happening in a few years. With regard to Oma and other nuclear power stations, the permission for the installation of nuclear reactors or the construction authorization was already granted some time ago. Thus, these nuclear power stations will be treated the same way as the nuclear power stations which are currently in operation - although a majority of them are now suspended. We are not thinking of nullifying any permissions or authorizations.
REPORTER: Based on the 40-year rule, will the Government be deciding on the decommissioning of Tsuruga or Mihama Nuclear Power Stations in the near future?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: This will be done in accordance with the three principles. So, I believe it is yes.
REPORTER: I would like to shift the discussion from a domestic to an overseas matter. At the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Japan reported on its new energy strategy which aims to have zero operating nuclear power stations by the 2030s. Can you tell us what the response was of the member states? Also, if this information has not yet been reported to you, can you tell us if you believe the strategy will obtain the understanding of the international community amid the various discussions taking place even within Japan?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Let me give you the facts. I have received a report that on the afternoon of September 17, Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Ryuji Yamane, who attended the General Conference of the IAEA, explained in his address as the head of delegation of Japan, the Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment which was decided at the Energy and Environment Council. On the same day, Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister Yamane held a brief discussion with IAEA Director General Amano. During the discussion, I understand Director General Yukio Amano stated that while it is up to countries to decide on their respective energy policies, IAEA will be closely following the examinations being made by countries regarding the impact that Japan's strategy will have on them with respect to the handing of reprocessing or the handling of plutonium. As for your question on the response received at the IAEA General Conference, at this point in time I have not been informed.
REPORTER: I have a question regarding your earlier statement that (nuclear power stations will be decommissioned) in accordance with the three principles. If Oma is constructed and operated, then pursuant to the 40-year principle, it means that it will be operating until the 2050s. However, on the other hand, the Government is saying that there will be zero nuclear power stations operating by the 2030s. What is your perception of the consistency between these two?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The latest strategy presents the major policy target, political target, and goal of the Government. Our aim is to inject every possible policies and resources to achieve this goal. From this standpoint, it serves no purpose to rush to conclusions about what will happen to Oma. Our aim is to inject various policies and resources to make zero nuclear power possible by the 2030s.
REPORTER: Is it OK to interpret, then, that while there is the 40-year principle, Oma may be shut down or decommissioned before the end of its 40-year period?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: If renewable energies, along with other challenging issues, become feasible options, that is, if we can know the prospects with certainty, then for the first time we will be able to have more specific discussions about the future. However, as of today, we are not at the point at which we can make a decisive statement on this matter.