METI Official Addresses U.S.-Japan Roundtable on Nuclear Energy Cooperation


KAP_USJRT_2015-026On Thursday, December 10, The Howard Baker Forum held its eighth annual conference of the United States-Japan Roundtable for Nuclear Energy Cooperation, in partnership with the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies. This year, the focus of the conference was entitled “Japan and the United States: Addressing the Challenges of Energy Security and Climate Change.”

The conference, hosted at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, generated lively and fruitful discussion among featured speakers and attendees alike, stemming from the insights of several esteemed presenters.

The first presentation of the day came from Mr. Hirohide Hirai, Director-General for International Energy and Technology Cooperation for METI. Mr. Hirai provided an in-depth look at the approach METI has implemented both in pursuing Japanese energy security and climate change mitigation peppered throughout with personable jokes. One particularly popular quip compared the wide array of robotic innovations in the nuclear industry to real-life Pokémon in Japan.

Such lighthearted engagement merely augmented Mr. Hirai’s presentation, which spanned three significant sections, examining subtopics in detail:

1. Fukushima Daiichi

  • Update on the water decontamination system brought online earlier this year
  • Improvements in the conditions of the region, including worker safety
  • Highlight on robot innovation and technologies specifically deployed in the Fukushima Daiichi cleanup process

2. Japan Energy Policy

  • Presentation of the new Best Mix determined for 2030, with 20-22% nuclear power
  • Update on the Japanese NPP restart, with both Sendai units back online and permits issued for Takahama and Ikata units
  • Update on Japanese power market deregulation, after the Monitoring Committee for the Electricity Trade was established in September

3. Global Nuclear Energy

  • Structure of the world nuclear industry, with visual breakdown of major powers and state-owned companies
  • U.S.-Japan nuclear cooperation, particularly in the role of the two countries in ensuring nuclear safety and nonproliferation
  • Challenges facing the global nuclear market, including funding, maintenance of a level playing field, expansion of operations, protection of trade secrets, and reinforcement of safety standards

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Mr. Hirai’s speech was an engaging opener for the 2015 conference, effectively laying out the facts of the modern nuclear industry while realistically recognizing issue areas as well as opportunities. We encourage exploration of his full presentation.

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