11 June, 2021
Government Omits Description of “Maximum Utilization” of Nuclear Power
At a meeting on June 2, the Japanese government’s Committee on the Growth Strategy proposed revisions to the Green Strategy, including the omission of the expression, “the maximum utilization of nuclear infrastructure.” The committee is chaired by Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato.
Subtle differences of views have emerged among the relevant cabinet ministers concerning this matter. At a press conference held after a cabinet meeting on June 4, Hiroshi Kajiyama, head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), noted that the change did not mean that the government had changed its policy on the use of nuclear power.
Meanwhile, at a separate press conference, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi said that the policy of the current administration was to achieve carbon neutrality, putting the top priority on renewable energies.
At the beginning of the Green Growth Strategy, formulated at the end of 2020, the government had positioned nuclear power as a “proven de-carbonization technology.” It also demonstrated the direction of continuing “the maximum utilization of nuclear infrastructure,” with further safety enhancement, “while aiming to decrease dependency on nuclear power” to the maximum extent.
In the proposed revisions released on June 2, however, the phrase “the maximum utilization of nuclear infrastructure” has been removed—although the wording on “decreasing dependency” was unchanged—and a new statement appeared instead: “Japan plans to resume the operation of nuclear reactors in cases where the Nuclear Regulatory Authority has confirmed that the world’s toughest regulatory standards are met.”
At a press conference on June 4, METI Minister Kajiyama, after saying that the change did not mean the government’s policy had changed, elaborated, “In the process of consultations, the government listened to opinions from various ministers. As of now, the expressions used in the current fifth Strategic Energy Plan will be precisely followed. As for future Cabinet policy on nuclear power, however, we agreed to discuss the phrasing in the process of revising the Strategic Energy Plan.”
The Green Growth Strategy released at the end of 2020 had been formulated by METI after discussions with various ministries, but was not signed jointly by those ministries. In contrast, the draft proposal for revisions shown on June 2 was signed off by the relevant ministries, and is credited to them. METI Minister Kajiyama explained how the expressions had been altered.
On the other hand, Environment Minister Koizumi stated, “The reason why the prime minister declared for carbon neutrality was not to maximize the utilization of nuclear power, but to introduce renewable energies to the maximum extent, and to work toward carbon neutrality under the principle of placing top priority on renewable energies.”
He continued, “Although the Environment Ministry was not responsible for energy policy, it has always spoken out on what was necessary in order to put together climate change countermeasures, its area of responsibility.” Koizumi then emphasized that it was the policy of the Suga administration to “make the state independent through the achievement of carbon neutrality, putting the top priority on renewable energies.”