Newly appointed trade and industry minister Yuko Obuchi on Thursday ruled out the construction of new nuclear power plants anytime soon.
“Safety checks of existing nuclear plants are being conducted now, so I’m not expecting to see new plants built at this point,” the first woman ever to head METI said in a group interview with the media. But Obuchi, 40, said the government will support restarting Japan’s existing reactors once the Nuclear Regulation Authority confirms they meet its new safety standards.
In July, reactors 1 and 2 at the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture became the first to pass the stricter safety standards drafted after the Fukushima nuclear crisis emerged in 2011, making them the closes to being restarted.
Obuchi, who is the daughter of the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, is likely to have a tough time overseeing the industry because anti-nuclear forces at both the local and national levels will be fiercely fighting restarts, especially those involving nuclear plants as old as doomed Fukushima No. 1 and those built on or near fault lines.
“I think it is more important than anything to win over people in local areas,” she said.
As for national energy policy, Obuchi stressed that Japan needs to reduce its dependence on atomic power as much as possible while attempting to see how far it can go with renewable energy, as stated in the basic energy plan approved by the Cabinet in April.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet Wednesday and appointed five female ministers to show he is committed to female empowerment.