The EU-Japan Centre is pleased to start a new weekly service by publishing brief summary of the latest information from the Japanese governmental organizations & private companies/organizations. A couple of minutes reading to be informed about what is happening in Japan's policy, economy, EU-Japan relations, and innovation.
*Information is deemed correct at the time of release.
Aichi Prefecture governmental agency develops turquoise hydrogen production technology by direct decomposition of methane
Aichi Prefecture announced on May 19 that it has developed a technology to generate "turquoise hydrogen" by directly decomposing methane, the main component of natural gas, through joint research with companies and universities. Direct methane cracking produces solid carbon with no CO2 emitted by the reaction. Storing the carbon as it is or using it for other purposes makes it carbon-neutral, and the hydrogen produced is CO2-free hydrogen.
However, the generated carbon covers the surface of the catalyst, causing a problem that the ability to produce hydrogen decreases, making it difficult to stably produce hydrogen. They have changed from the conventional method of using fine metal particles as a catalyst to the method of using a metal plate, and have developed a device that easily removes the generated carbon from the surface of the catalyst. In the future, they plan to investigate the application of the produced carbon to thermally conductive materials as one of the industrial uses.
Aichi prefectural government website (in Japanese):
APEC trade ministers suspended joint statement
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade ministers' meeting was held on May 25 and 26 in Detroit, Michigan, in the Midwestern United States. Russia and China objected to the content condemning the invasion to Ukraine and postponed the adoption of a joint statement. The United States, which holds the presidency, released a summary of the chairman's remarks.
At the APEC summit held in Thailand in November last year, a summit declaration containing a description of the invasion to Ukraine was compiled. Most members strongly condemn the war in Ukraine that “it has a negative impact on the global economy."
Instead, the US issued a Chair's Summary, which is compiled at the discretion of the Chair. The parts related to Ukraine remained unchanged from the statement in November last year. APEC is a framework for economic cooperation among 21 countries and regions surrounding the Pacific Ocean, including Japan, the United States, China, and Russia. From Japan, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura attended.
METI Minister holds ministerial meeting of Japan-U.S. Commercial and Industrial Partnership (JUCIP) with U.S. Secretary of Commerce
On May 26, in Detroit, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Nishimura and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Marie Raimondo held the ministerial meeting of Japan-U.S. and Industrial Partnership (JUCIP).
At the meeting, the two ministers welcomed the expansion of cooperation between the two ministries in the fields of biotechnology and quantum technology, as well as Pacific Island countries, in addition to the areas of cooperation so far, such as semiconductors, export control, and digital technology. A joint statement was issued outlining the results and future direction of cooperation.
The two ministers also agreed to hold the 2nd Ministerial Meeting of the Japan-U.S. Economic Policy Consultative Committee (economic version "2+2") at an appropriate time as soon as possible to strengthen the economic security of both countries.
IPEF Ministerial Meeting held
On May 27, the IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework) ministerial meeting was held in Detroit and Minister of METI Nishimura participated from Japan. At the same meeting, the "IPEF Supply Chain Agreement" was concluded in substance. They also confirmed progress in the areas of trade, clean economy, and fair economy, and agreed to accelerate negotiations toward an early agreement.
At the same time, they agreed to launch the "Hydrogen Initiative" with Japan and Singapore taking the lead. Minister Nishimura emphasized the significance of promoting concrete efforts to strengthen supply chains among reliable partner countries. In order to improve the usage environment, they announced to the countries concerned that that will promote concrete cooperation. Furthermore, the minister announced that as part of "Japan Week," Japan will implement training for inviting negotiators from IPEF member countries to Japan, with the aim of strengthening the supply chain.
Toyota liquid hydrogen engine car completes 24-hour race
On May 28, Toyota's liquid hydrogen-fueled engine car completed the 24-hour endurance race. This was the first time for the team to participate in a race with liquid hydrogen, as it had previously competed with gaseous hydrogen. Expectations are rising for hydrogen, which does not emit carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned, and Toyota will accelerate development toward commercialization.
The race was held at Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka Prefecture from May 27. Toyota introduced a liquid hydrogen engine vehicle "hydrogen engine Corolla". It was scheduled to be introduced in the race at Suzuka Circuit (Mie Prefecture) in March, but it caught fire during the test run just before, and was unable to recover in time. This time, it changed the design of the piping that caused the fire and participated.
Expectations are rising for hydrogen to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of hydrogen engine vehicles, engine parts and technologies used in existing gasoline vehicles can also be utilized. Hydrogen-powered cars will be allowed to participate in the French traditional endurance race "Le Mans 24 hours" from 2026, and Toyota is considering participating.
SoftBank and NVIDIA collaborate on data center construction
SoftBank announced on May 29 that it will collaborate with US semiconductor giant Nvidia to build a data center. NVIDIA's CPU (Central Processing Unit) will be installed in SoftBank's data center. With the emergence of generative AI and other factors, the amount of data processed is expected to increase even further, and SoftBank is aiming to open data centers nationwide.
SoftBank plans to deploy "distributed AI data centers" in major cities nationwide. The specific timing is still unknown, but by developing data centers in various places, the aim is to handle huge amounts of data processing and prevent power consumption from being concentrated in urban areas.
In addition to generative AI, the construction of the high-speed communication standard "5G" and the next-generation communication standard "6G" is expected to significantly increase the computing power required for data processing, and the "distributed AI data center" will serve as a receiver. By installing NVIDIA CPUs in data centers, it is possible to avoid delays during peak hours and reduce power consumption.
Industry organization targets 30% of electricity in 2050 from wind power
On May 29, the Japan Wind Power Association announced a goal of 33% of domestic power demand in 2050 to be covered by wind power. It is estimated that there is a lot of room for introduction, mainly for offshore wind power, and the target for introduction in the same year is 140 million kilowatts, which is 30 times the cumulative introduction amount by 2022. The government's forecast for 2030 shows that solar power will account for a higher share of demand, but the association expects wind power to outperform wind power by two percentage points in 2050.
This was announced in the "JWPA Wind Vision 2023" announced by the association. The breakdown is 40 million kilowatts for fixed offshore wind power and 60 million kilowatts for floating offshore wind power, making up the majority of offshore wind power. In addition, the introduction of wind power generation has been estimated to have an economic ripple effect of JP￥6 trillion on related industries and regions, and a cumulative job creation effect of 350,000 people.
Compared to onshore wind farms, offshore wind farms have more room for installation, and the power generation capacity of each wind farm is relatively large. In the 6th Strategic Energy Plan, the government has set a goal of introducing 18 million kilowatts of onshore wind power and 5.7 million kilowatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
JAPAN WIND POWER ASSOCIATION website (in Japanese):
METI sets investment standards for securing resources
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Japan Energy and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) announced they will establish investment standards for countries that possess minerals essential for decarbonization and resources used for next-generation fuels. It was made clear at the Resource and Fuel Subcommittee of the Research Committee on Natural Resources and Energy held on May 29. Japanese companies lack the know-how to secure interests. The government will present a concrete plan by the end of the year, and the public and private sectors will expand the sources of supplies.
Investment standards are shown for each mineral and next-generation fuel. Important minerals such as lithium and cobalt used in storage batteries of electric vehicles (EV), synthetic fuel "e-fuel" that can reduce CO2 emissions, next-generation fuel "SAF" for aircraft, hydrogen and ammonia, etc. It urges companies to prioritize 24 countries such as the United States and Australia for investment. In addition to the United States and Australia, there are also Argentina, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Namibia. Investment priority countries will also consider expansion.
For Australia, for example, he suggested building a supply network in areas such as hydrogen and ammonia. The development of raw materials for SAF and the construction of a stable supply network to Japan were also mentioned as specific plans. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will support investment with a view to support measures such as providing subsidies. It has been pointed out that companies tend to be cautious in their investment decisions, and that they are falling behind overseas companies as energy that will become the mainstay of decarbonization in the future is uncertain.
Video Recording of the Resource and Fuel Subcommittee on May 29 (YouTube in Japanese):
Japanese government joins High Ambition Coalition (HAC) to combat plastic pollution
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced that it would participate in the High Ambition Coalition to end plastic pollution (HAC) ahead of the intergovernmental negotiations held on May 26 in Paris, France, toward the establishment of a convention on measures to combat plastic pollution.
Japan has been leading the related discussions at the inter-governmental negotiations held in November last year, with the aim of having as many countries as possible formulate an effective and progressive treaty on measures to combat plastic pollution. Based on this position, it has decided to participate in HAC, which is attended by 54 countries and regions.
HAC is a national group that has set a goal of ending plastic pollution by 2040 and pursues sustainable plastic production and consumption, promotion of resource recycling, and proper management of plastic waste. Co-chaired by Norway and Rwanda, there are currently 55 participating countries, including Japan.
METI website (in Japanese):
Stablecoin in Japan to be issued within the year
Stablecoins backed by fiat currencies such as the US dollar and JP￥ will be issued in Japan. The revised Payment Services Act, which defines stablecoins as electronic payment methods, will go into effect on June 1, and banks are expected to issue them by the end of the year. Transactions of goods and payments can be completed at the same time, and it is likely to lead to more efficient payments between companies on a scale of JP￥1,000 trillion annually.
Stablecoins are electronic payment instruments designed to prevent large fluctuations in price by backing assets such as legal currencies and international commodities. There are stable coins such as Tether and USD coin in the world, and they are used for international remittance.
In June 2022, Japan enacted the revised Payment Services Act to regulate stablecoins ahead of the rest of the world. From December 2022, the Financial Services Agency will implement procedures to revise the Cabinet Office Ordinance, etc. to allow the handling of stablecoins issued overseas, on the condition that sufficient asset preservation is ensured. The system would be revised in line with the enforcement of the revised law on June 1, 2023.
The revised law limits the issuers of stablecoins to three entities: banks, trust companies, and fund transfer companies, and obliges the operators responsible for distribution to register. For stablecoins issued overseas, the law would thoroughly protect users by obliging distributors who handle transactions in Japan to protect the assets.
MOF website (in Japanese):
Patent information analysis indicates Japan’s strong presence in the field of Green Transformation Technologies
On May 30, the Japan Patent Office announced the results of a survey summarizing trends in patent applications in countries and regions related to Green Transformation (GX) technology. The research was conducted based on the Green Transformation Technology Classification Table (GXTI) created independently by the Japan Patent Office. As a result of this survey, (1) looking at GX technology as a whole, Japan has the largest number of inventions developed internationally, (2) as to solar power generation, energy saving in buildings (ZEB, ZEH, etc.), secondary batteries, it became clear that Japan has strengths in this field.
Looking at the total number of GX technology inventions at GXTI, the number of applications filed by Chinese applicants has been increasing rapidly, and in 2013, exceeded that of Japanese applicants. On the other hand, looking at the number of internationally deployed inventions, the number of cases by Japanese applicants was the largest throughout the survey period. Considering the annual trends in the number of inventions and the number of internationally deployed inventions, it can be estimated that the majority of Chinese patent applications are filed only in their own country.
Looking at the top 20 applicants for the number of internationally deployed inventions, 10 applicants are Japanese applicants. In terms of the number of highly cited internationally deployed inventions that are cited frequently in patent examinations in each country/region, The USA applicants had the highest number of 359, followed by Japanese applicants with 182. The number of internationally deployed inventions and the number of highly cited internationally deployed inventions suggest that Japan has strengths in the field of photovoltaic power generation, while the USA and Europe also have a strong presence.
GX Power Supply Act enacted to enable nuclear power plants to operate for more than 60 years
The GX (Green Transformation) Decarbonized Power Supply Law, which includes the extension of the operating period of nuclear power plants to over 60 years, was approved and enacted at the plenary session of the House of Councilors on May 31. It aims to use existing nuclear power plants as much as possible to ensure a stable supply of electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is a content that changes the nuclear policy after the Tokyo Electric Power Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in March 2011.
After the accident, Japan set an operating period of 40 years in principle and 60 years at the longest. While maintaining that framework, it is possible to effectively operate for more than 60 years by excluding suspension periods due to reasons that operators cannot foresee, such as safety inspections and court orders. The provisions regarding the operating period will be deleted from the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law and transferred to the Electricity Business Law under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The government's Nuclear Regulation Authority will not change the system for safety reviews, but the system will be extended if the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry determines that it will contribute to decarbonization and the stable supply of electricity.
Regarding safety regulations, nuclear reactors that have been in operation for over 30 years will be obligated to evaluate their deterioration every 10 years and obtain approval. The Regulatory Commission will conduct additional inspections of the same items as special inspections for 40-year-old nuclear power plants that have been in operation for over 60 years.
Cabinet secretariate website (in Japanese):
IAEA reports comparison of analyzes of ALPS-treated water by institution
On May 31, the IAEA announced the results of interanalytical comparison in connection with the review on the safety of ALPS-treated water at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which will start in 2021. This report presents the results of review activities conducted by the IAEA regarding corroboration and analysis of independent sampling data.
The report stated that 1) TEPCO had a high level of measurement accuracy and technical competence, 2) TEPCO's sampling procedures followed appropriate standards to obtain a representative sample, and 3) the analytical methods chosen by TEPCO for the nuclide analysis used were adequate and fit for purpose. Neither the IAEA nor participating third-party laboratories have detected any significant additional radionuclides. Based on the results of the review by the IAEA, the Japanese government will proceed with efforts to release the treated water into the ocean on the premise of safety.
- Participating analytical laboratories (IAEA side):
IAEA Marine Environment Laboratories, Radiometrics Laboratory (RML), Monaco; Terrestrial Environmental Radiochemistry Laboratory (TERC), Seibersdorf, Austria; Isotope Hydrology Laboratory (IHL), Vienna, Austria.
- Third-party analysis agencies:
Spiez Laboratory (LS – Labor Spiez), Switzerland; Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN), France; Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), United States of America; Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS), Republic of Korea
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