Kansai exec forum skims atomic power debate

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Kansai’s annual gathering of senior corporate executives concluded Friday with calls to consolidate the management of Kansai and Itami airports, extend the planned maglev line to Osaka, build a separate Hokuriku shinkansen line, and encourage qualified foreign professionals and more women to live and work in the region.

“Kansai is aiming for a revitalization of the frontier spirit. Companies should take risks and accept risk-takers who fail. Regardless of nationality, age or sex, we support a workplace encouraging a broad range of workers, and one that emphasizes individuality and talent needs to be supported,” the seminar’s declaration read.

This year marked a half century of seminars originally established to address macroeconomic issues but now expanded to include politics, diplomacy, national security and education. Much discussion over the two-day seminar focused on Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who most attendees approved of.

Somewhat more controversial was the future of nuclear power.

More than 50 percent of Kansai’s electricity comes from nuclear power supplied by Kansai Electric Power Co., whose chairman is Shosuke Mori.

Mori is also chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation, one of the organizers of the Kansai Economic Seminar. Some complaining was heard among renewable energy advocates about the lack of formal discussions at the seminar on Kansai’s, and Japan’s, energy future.

“Thinking about energy is centered on businesses supplying energy. But it’s important for all of Kansai to discuss new energy policies,” Kepco President Makoto Yagi said in response to calls for investment in renewable energy-related businesses.

Whether to restart reactors 3 and 4 in Kepco’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture, only about 50 km from where the seminar was held, or whether Kansai could get by without them, was not debated at length, but on the minds of most.

Hashimoto has said just because Tokyo may approve restarting reactors after concluding stress tests show they are safe, that does not mean they should automatically be restarted. Kepco has concluded there will be great shortages without nuclear power if the weather turns colder than predicted. But the mayor, his Osaka Ishin no kai (One Osaka) political group, antinuclear groups, local economists, and a number of service and light-industry representatives at the seminar dispute Kepco’s conclusions.