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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Thursday, January 19, 2012 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]



REPORTER: This question is concerning the raising of electricity charges for households. Certain news outlets are reporting that the Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) are coordinating to raise prices by between 5% and 15%. Please comment on the status of considerations being carried out by the Government and a schedule for when the price increase is to be implemented.


CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Right. There are news reports about a rise in household electricity charges. Currently, within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Expert Panel to Review Electricity Rate System and Its Operation is in the middle of making revisions to the electricity rate system and how it is managed. Furthermore, there are plans to include the thorough rationalization of management without eliminating any options in the comprehensive special business plan, which is scheduled for compilation by this coming March. With regard to your question concerning the Government raising residential electricity charges for the customers of TEPCO in the regulated section, it is not true that the Government is coordinating to do so. I have been told that what TEPCO is saying is that TEPCO President Toshio Nishizawa hopes to advance discussion on a price increase as soon as possible and that the company's management wants to make a decision. However, the government has not been involved in considerations about a price increase.


REPORTER: Deliberations are being carried out between Japan and the United States about a bill concerning the United States' sanctions on Iran. Please provide the Government of Japan's views about the progress of deliberations that took place until yesterday.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: United States Department of States Special Advisor Robert Einhorn and Department of Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Glaser are currently visiting Japan to exchange views - or, perhaps I should say engage in working-level dialogue - with regard to the United States' National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). To briefly comment on the content of those discussions, Japan's basic stance is that it shares the same concerns about the Iranian nuclear problem as the United States, and that we will continue to apply pressure to Iran and cooperate with the United States and the rest of the international community. I have been told that the United States side provided a detailed explanation about the interpretation and operation of the NDAA. In response, Japan noted that it would be necessary to avoid any impacts on the economy and crude oil market that could result from how the Act is administered. I was told that the United States side responded that they would be administering the Act in a cautious manner. I have also been told that they will be holding discussions, or, working-level meetings, again today and that the final meetings will be held tomorrow morning.

REPORTER: I would like to ask again about the recommencement of operations at nuclear power stations. If operations at nuclear power stations are not restarted, operations at all of the nuclear power stations in Japan will be suspended as of the end of April. Is it correct to say that restarting operations at nuclear power stations is necessary in order to ensure the stable supply of electric power?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: More importantly than that or anything else is the individual safety of each nuclear power station - that comes first. Our basic policy is what the Prime Minister has recently indicated in his comments on television; that is, Japan will avoid reliance on nuclear power generation in the mid- to long-term as much as possible. However, it is true that the Prime Minister has also questioned how we can completely eliminate nuclear power without alternate energy sources to take its place and without slowing down the economy, and whether we can manage to gain support for such a campaign from citizens. He has also stated that we will compile the best mix of energy sources by June of this year. Nevertheless, and I have said this time and time again, but we will be carrying out the same procedure as in the past with regard to restarting operations at each individual nuclear power station and acquire the understanding of local community. That is the bottom line.

REPORTER: This question is regarding the issue of those procedures. Yesterday, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) held a town hall meeting. There was some confusion, as opponents tried to enter the venue. I believe this to be one manifestation of the local community's strong opposition to nuclear power. How do you respond to this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I do not think there is such a direct connection between local communities and the situation at NISA yesterday. I have been told that yesterday marked the seventh town hall meeting held by experts. It is also my understanding that during the last meeting certain audience members made disorderly remarks that hindered the progression of proceedings, and that some audience members stormed the committee members after the meeting was over. As such, yesterday, only committee members and the press were allowed into the venue in efforts to prevent disruption to the progress of proceedings while also maintaining transparency, and that a separate location for spectators was set up so that they could view the proceedings in real-time. The audience was sent a prior notification concerning this method, where they were allowed to register to attend. It is truly unfortunate that audience members did not adhere to the prior notifications and entered the venue, thus confusing the progression of proceedings. Moving forward METI has been asked to pay thorough consideration to the best method for ensuring the smooth progression of proceedings by experts while maintaining transparency at the same time.


REPORTER: With regard to the restart of operations at nuclear power stations, ultimately the understanding of local communities must be acquired; however, what scope is being used to define the local community? Will the Government be creating a criterion for this moving forward?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: No. Ultimately, the primary stakeholders that must acquire understanding are the suppliers. The various scopes for local communities will differ greatly depending on the power station - some have indicated the scope as being 30 kilometers. I believe that, basically, the local community will likely be defined in this way.

REPORTER: Do you mean by a 30-kilometer range?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: That is how things are progressing in Shimane. I believe, however, that each supplier will ultimately establish its own scope.

REPORTER: So, the Government will not create a uniform standard?


REPORTER: Do you mean that each supplier will individually establish its own scope?



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