Kansai business leaders hail nuclear power plant restarts, urge TPP ratification


Staff Writer

The annual meeting of Kansai area corporate leaders opened Thursday in Kyoto with declarations of support for a recently restarted nuclear power plant and calls for the swift ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The two-day Kansai Economic Seminar brought together over 500 participants including heads of companies. Tabled for discussion were local and national economic, social, and political issues ranging from developing a more diverse and skilled young workforce in the face of a rapidly aging society to tourism promotion.

Kansai Economic Federation chairman Shosuke Mori, who also serves as chairman and director of Kansai Electric Power Co., opened the meeting by touching on local and national energy issues. He said Japan’s energy policy has taken a new turn with the restart of Kepco’s Takahama No. 3 reactor last week and the restart of two reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant last August.

“The restart of these reactors means the situation since September 2013, where Japan had no nuclear plants operating, has been eliminated,” Mori said. “This is a very significant development. Kepco will also restart the Takahama No. 4 reactor in about a month, and we’re talking about reducing electricity rates after April 1.”

Mori did not address the deregulation of the electricity market in April to allow for competition in the household market and how it might impact the Kansai economy.

This move opens up Kepco to a range of competitors, many of which hope to sell electricity derived from renewable energy or natural gas. As Japan’s regional utilities have a monopoly and control access to their transmission lines, it remains unclear what the impact on Kepco will be.

The seminar took place on the day that 12 nations, including Japan, signed the TPP agreement in New Zealand. Mori said the TPP nations account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP and called for early ratification of the treaty by members’ legislatures.

However, some participants noted factors which could delay implementation of the TPP, including the facts that leading figures in the U.S. race oppose the deal and U.S. Congress remains skeptical. Another factor, they said, is the resignation last week of economy minister Akira Amari, who negotiated the TPP for Japan.