METI aims to wean nation off nuclear power: Edano

Renewable energy to replace atomic plants, ensure Japan's future


Staff Writer

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will take the initiative in promoting renewable energy so Japan will be less dependent on nuclear power, Yukio Edano said shortly after taking the METI portfolio.

“What we have to do is to create a situation as soon as possible where society can function without nuclear power,” Edano, 47, said Monday night during his first news conference in the new post.

But Edano was also cautious, saying he has to wait to see where discussions by the government’s energy panel as well as public debate go before deciding whether nuclear power should be completely abandoned.

In the meantime, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power are key to reducing dependency on nuclear power, he said, adding that METI’s role in national energy policy carries huge responsibility.

“Without the spread of this energy, there is no future for Japan in the 21st century,” said Edano, who served as chief Cabinet secretary in Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Cabinet.

As for bringing nuclear power plants back online, Edano said the government will allow utilities to restart reactors once their safety has been confirmed through mandated stress tests and local governments grant approval.

Building new reactors will be “very difficult,” he said.

Edano’s appointment came after the resignation of Yoshio Hachiro over some gaffes. Hachiro described the area surrounding the badly damaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant, where residents have been forced to evacuate, as a “town of death.”

He also reportedly joked that he would smear radioactive materials on garments that he was wearing onto a reporter’s clothes after he returned from a trip to Fukushima.

During his last news conference as minister, Hachiro said he could not clearly remember making that joke.

Upon his appointment, Edano said he was hesitant to accept the post because he held a key position in the previous administration, which was criticized for not implementing effective measures fast enough following the March 11 disasters.

“I still have that feeling (that I should not take a ministerial position in this Cabinet), but the prime minister told me it is better to appoint someone who really knows the details of the Fukushima accident and (how national) nuclear power policy has been revised,” Edano said.

As for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership framework, Edano merely said he will watch which way discussions go while at the same time paying attention to international economic trends.

Tepco aid only for victims


Industry minister Yukio Edano made it clear Tuesday that the government’s financial aid to Tokyo Electric Power Co. will not be aimed at protecting the utility’s lender banks and shareholders but to support compensation payments to those affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

“The purposes of the aid do not include protecting creditors and shareholders,” Edano said at a news conference.

When he was chief Cabinet secretary, Edano had said debt waivers by Tepco’s lender banks would be necessary following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The remarks caused a commotion in the financial industry.

Edano said Tuesday the government’s financial aid is aimed at helping Tepco compensate those affected by the nuclear crisis, to end the crisis at an early date, and to ensure a stable electricity supply.

Edano also suggested his intention to seek a review of fuel and other costs at not only Tepco but other utilities as well.

Electricity charges in Japan are set by almost unconditionally reflecting fuel and other costs at utilities.

“It cannot be necessarily said that Tepco has made sufficient cost-cutting efforts,” Edano said. “We could effectively assume that other utilities have similar problems.”

A third-party panel tasked with overseeing Tepco’s financial standing has pointed out that the utility’s cost estimation to date has been problematic.