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Exclusive-More than 80% of Japanese businesses support restarting nuclear power and resuming tourism

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  According to a Reuters poll, a huge majority of Japanese corporations favour restarting idled nuclear re...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English -  According to a Reuters poll, a huge majority of Japanese corporations favour restarting idled nuclear reactors and resuming foreign tourism this month, suggesting broad support for two steps considered as likely to reduce economic strain.

Higher global energy prices and a plummeting yen drive up input costs for manufacturers and squeeze consumers, according to the results of the monthly Reuters Corporate Survey, which are among the strongest indicators yet of Japan Inc's backing of a return to nuclear power.

After a terrible earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi plant and produced the world's biggest nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl, nuclear power remains a sensitive topic in Japan. However, rising energy prices as a result of the Ukraine situation appear to be swaying popular sentiment.

"Until we have alternative energy sources, such as hydrogen," a manager at a paper and pulp industry stated, "economic activity will not move forward without restarting nuclear reactors."

Following the Fukushima tragedy, Japan shut down the majority of its nuclear reactors, totaling more than 40, leaving only about 10 active.

According to a poll of 500 major and mid-size non-financial enterprises conducted by Nikkei Research for Reuters from June 1 to 10, 85 percent of firms were in favour of restarting nuclear reactors if safety conditions were met. A total of 240 businesses replied.

Their remarks revealed that economic concerns were a major factor in their decision to pursue nuclear power.

"Structural power outages have a significant economic impact, making nuclear power restart critical," a wholesaler's management noted.

The findings contrasted with those of an April study, in which nearly 60% of businesses believed the government should restart reactors "as soon as possible." However, because the most recent survey did not inquire about the date of a restart, a direct comparison is problematic.

According to a March poll conducted by the Nikkei newspaper, 53% of voters say the government should restart reactors.


Similarly, 89 percent of businesses said they were pleased with the government's decision to allow limited inbound foreign tourism once more. Many businesses expected the measure to help with the pandemic's recovery, albeit it hinted they didn't want border restrictions to be totally eased until 2023.

The government has only permitted a limited number of foreign tourists to enter on package excursions since June 10. After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, this is the first step.

Policymakers have had to strike a tough balance between the economic benefits of tourism and the risk of a COVID comeback from visitors.

Local governments, according to an industry executive, are still concerned that foreign tourists may transmit the virus, making it difficult to fully open the country.

About a quarter of businesses believe the government should restore pre-pandemic levels of foreign tourists this year, while 58 percent believe it should wait until 2023.

On the condition of anonymity, a manager of a ceramics company noted in the survey, "You cannot rule out the potential (a re-opening) could provoke return of illnesses." "Vaccines, on the other hand, prevent infections from getting worse. Even with the risk, the benefits of inbound demand exceed the disadvantages."

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, tourism was a rare bright light for Japan, with over 32 million international visitors spending 4.81 trillion yen ($35.80 billion) in 2019. By 2030, the government hopes to attract 60 million tourists every year.

During the epidemic, Japan implemented among of the tightest border controls in the world, barring practically all non-residents from entering and causing a drop in travel demand.

Inbound tourism is predicted to contribute "slightly" to economic growth this fiscal year, according to seven out of ten businesses surveyed, with 18 percent expecting it to contribute "much."

(1 dollar Equals 134.3700 yen)

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