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Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Friday, May 6, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Prime Minister, please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I have an important announcement to make to the people of Japan. Today, in my capacity as Prime Minister, I requested by way of Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda that Chubu Electric Power Company suspend the operation of all nuclear reactors at Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station. I made this decision, first and foremost, in consideration of the safety and well-being of the public. I contemplated what would happen if a major incident were to occur at Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, and the enormous impact this would have on Japanese society as a whole.

According to an assessment by the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), there is an 87% chance of an approximately magnitude 8.0 earthquake occurring in the Tokai region in the next 30 years, an extremely high probability. In consideration of these special circumstances surrounding Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, there is a need to implement sound mid- to long-term measures, such as the building of seawalls, that will allow us to sufficiently withstand the envisaged Tokai earthquake. In order to safeguard the safety and well-being of the people, I made the judgment that the nuclear reactors at the Station should be suspended until such measures are in place. This should not just apply to Unit 3, which is currently stopped for a routine inspection, but to all reactors at the Station, including those now in operation.

Many have long pointed out the dangers associated with Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station's location above an active fault. Following the recent earthquake and subsequent nuclear incident, I listened to a variety of opinions on the safety of the Station. Having heard these opinions, Minister Kaieda and I deliberated on this issue carefully. This deliberation resulted in my decision today as Prime Minister.

The Government will implement every possible measure to ensure that the suspension of Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station does not significantly disrupt the power supply/demand balance of Chubu Electric Power Company. I am confident that the risk of a power shortage can be overcome through creative efforts to further conserve power and energy on the part of the entire nation, including those residing in the area around the Station. I sincerely request the understanding and cooperation of the entire nation on this matter.


CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We will take two questions. Yamaguchi-san, please.

REPORTER: I am Yamaguchi of NHK. You said that you made the decision to have the Station closed from the perspective of safety. Up until now Chubu Electric Power Company has been saying that there are no safety concerns at the Station even if there is an earthquake with the scale of the envisaged Tokai earthquake, and the Government has accepted this. I would appreciate it if you could explain why you are only closing Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station suddenly this time. Also, I believe that if you completely shut the Station down we will face a shortfall in the amount of electricity that can be supplied this summer. What sort of concrete measures are you planning in order to deal with this?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: As I stated a moment ago, a MEXT-affiliated organization has stated that there is an 87% chance of there being an approximately magnitude 8.0 Tokai earthquake centered in the area where the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station is located within the next 30 years. You could say that this makes the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station unique. I carefully deliberated on this situation and came to my decision in consideration of the safety and well-being of the public.

You also asked a question about the possibility of a power shortage. In my plans up to this point I have noted the possibility that we may face some shortages. However, if we receive the cooperation and understanding of the entire nation I believe that we will be able to sufficiently meet power demand throughout the summer. This is how I envisage we will be able to handle this issue.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We will take one more question. Sakajiri-san, please.

REPORTER: I am Sakajiri of the Asahi Shimbun. What is the legal basis for your request to shutdown the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station? Supposing that there is no legal grounds for this, if Chubu Electric Power Company refuses your request, how do you intend to respond?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I will ask Minister of Economy, Industry and Trade Kaieda to give a detailed report about the request later. Basically, what I stated earlier was my request to Chubu Electric Power Company. While there are many legal regulations in place, there is currently no legal system for the instructions or orders I give. I have simply made a request. What was the other question?

REPORTER: If Chubu Electric Power Company refuses your request, how do you intend to respond?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I would attempt to persuade them until I can sufficiently gain their understanding about this.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: This brings the Prime Minister's press conference to a close. Thank you very much for your cooperation.