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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Thursday, September 22, 2011 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I mentioned about this briefly this morning, but I would like to comment on the Okinawa Promotion Working Group of the Okinawa Policy Council. There is going to be a Budget Committee meeting on September 26 (Monday), and we will hold an Okinawa Promotion Working Group meeting starting at 8:00am that morning. This working group was established in September of last year by the Okinawa Policy Council, and this will be the fourth meeting. In this meeting the Government will report on the basic direction of considerations for new promotion and development policy for Okinawa, which pulls together the considerations made thus far in response to recommendations made by Okinawa Prefecture last year concerning structures and systems. We will also listen to the views of Okinawa Prefecture and exchanges of opinions will be held between the Government and the Prefecture.

I would also like to report on the Government's preparations for a United States satellite that is expected to fall to the earth. This is already being reported by the media, but according to the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), one of NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellites (UARS) that has concluded operations is predicted to reenter the Earth's atmosphere in the afternoon of September 23 North American Eastern Standard Time (NAEST) - which is around the morning of September 24 in Japan - where upon a portion of it will fall to the earth without burning up. In response to this situation, the Government established the Information Liaison Office Concerning the Falling of a United States Satellite at 1:00pm today within the Crisis Management Center of the Prime Minister's Office in order to strengthen the overall Government's ability to collect and consolidate information regarding this incident and to ensure a thorough response. In preparation for a worst case scenario, the Government is now deliberating on response measures, including enhancing communications between related ministries and agencies as well as on information gathering and provision methods. According to NASA, the debris from the satellite does not contain any hazardous substances, and judging from information provided by NASA and other sources, the possibility that the debris will land in the vicinity of Japan and cause harm to citizens is extremely low. So, I ask that citizens remain calm and go about their daily lives as normal. Information about the satellite is regularly updated on NASA's website, and a provisional Japanese translation of that information is also regularly provided via the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's (MEXT) website. As has already been posted, the Government will quickly notify citizens in the event of a crisis for or danger to Japan.



REPORTER:This afternoon, the Chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation paid a visit and made a request regarding power shortages during the winter season. It is my understanding that he requested that operations be restarted at nuclear power stations due to the possibility of power shortages. In response, you answered that the Government would advance affairs according to the policy of the Prime Minister. Specifically, what thoughts did you convey to the Chairman about how the Government is to respond to power shortages in the winter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:First, the representatives of the Kansai Economic Federation and four other economic groups from the Kansai Region told me that this summer, in particular, the issue of electric power that falls under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was a major topic of conversation. However, the truth is that the Kansai economic zone falls under the jurisdiction of Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO). Furthermore, as you know KEPCO has the largest level of dependency on nuclear power in Japan, at around 45%. In that respect, considering that after this coming January three more reactors will undergo their regularly scheduled inspections - three of KEPCO's reactors will begin regular inspections while the company remains the most dependent on nuclear power in Japan. So, when they say "winter" they are talking about from February - and in March it may already be spring. I don't think that has been covered by the media so far, but in the Kansai economic zone these organizations are taking the immediate situation of February - that is, the winter months of next year - very seriously rather than about next summer. In response - and this has been reiterated in the Prime Minister's policy speech and in answers provided in press conferences by Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano - we have indicated that our direction on restarting operations at halted nuclear power station is that we will carry out a thorough safety verification and confirmation on the safety situation of each station on a case by case basis and then, as a major premise, only permit the restart if it takes place as a relationship of trust is being reconstructed with relevant local governments at the same time.


REPORTER:The Makinohara City Assembly in Shizuoka Prefecture is expected to submit a resolution to indefinitely suspend operations at Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station in the near future and that resolution is anticipated to pass. First, please tell us the Government's reaction to this situation. Also, you have consistently indicated that acquiring local understanding is a major premise for the restart of operations at nuclear power stations. Although this is not the municipality where the facility is located and the surrounding municipalities might also have similar views, what are your thoughts concerning acquiring local understanding and how this will be impacted by the resolution to indefinitely halt operations at this nuclear power station?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I am aware of the news regarding the issue with Makinohara City Assembly. In either case, and I have said this before, just as dictated in the Prime Minister's policy speech and as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Edano has answered as well, a thorough safety verification and confirmation will be carried out on each suspended nuclear power station and, as a major premise, a relationship of trust will be built with the local governments before any halted nuclear power station is restarted. Concerning the procedures for restarting operations at nuclear power stations undergoing regular scheduled checks, and I have said this before, the unified policy of the Government is that a primary assessment will be implemented, as announced on July 11. Regarding Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, in addition to the primary assessment, it will be necessary to acquire local understanding after verifying safety upon implementing mid- to long-term countermeasures that were specified when operations at the facility were suspended.


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