EXCLUSIVE Over 80% of Japanese companies support nuclear restart and tourism recovery

  • Businesses hail revival of tourist inflow as growth driver – poll
  • They want tourist numbers at pre-COVID levels in 2023
  • Many businesses expect moderate or flat economic growth this fiscal year
  • Most are looking for another stimulus package
  • Most companies support restarting nuclear if safety is guaranteed

TOKYO, June 16 (Reuters) – A large majority of Japanese businesses support both restarting idle nuclear reactors and resuming overseas tourism this month, a Reuters survey has found, underscoring broad approval of two measures seen as likely to ease the pressure on the economy.

The results of Reuters’ monthly business survey are among the strongest signs yet of Japan Inc’s endorsement of a return to nuclear power, as global energy prices rise and the falling yen are driving up input costs for manufacturers and squeezing households.

Nuclear power remains a sensitive issue in Japan after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 crippled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and caused the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. But the rise in energy prices due to the Ukrainian crisis seems to be orienting public opinion on the issue.

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“Until we have new sources of energy, such as hydrogen, economic activity will not progress without restarting nuclear reactors,” wrote an official of a paper and pulp company. paper.

Japan idled the bulk of its nuclear reactors – more than 40 – following the Fukushima disaster, leaving it with around 10 operational now.

Overall, 85% of companies were in favor of restarting nuclear reactors if safety requirements were met, according to the poll of 500 large and medium-sized non-financial companies conducted from June 1 to 10 by Nikkei Research for Reuters. Around 240 companies responded.

Their comments showed that economic concerns played a prominent role in the review of nuclear energy.

“Structural electricity shortages are having a significant impact on the economy, making restarting nuclear power essential,” wrote an official at a wholesaler.

The results are compared with those of the April survey, in which almost 60% of companies said the government should act “quickly” to restart reactors. However, the latest survey didn’t ask about the timing of the reboot, so a direct comparison is difficult.

An opinion poll conducted by the Nikkei newspaper in March showed that 53% of voters thought the government should restart the reactors.

HAPPY TO SEE YOU AGAIN

Similarly, the survey showed that 89% of businesses welcomed the government’s decision to allow limited inbound foreign tourism again. Many companies expected the move to help recovery from the pandemic – even though it suggested they didn’t want border limits to be fully relaxed until 2023.

Since June 10, the government has allowed a limited number of foreign tourists to participate in package tours. This is a first phase, after two years of COVID-19 curbs.

Policymakers have faced the difficult task of trying to balance the economic benefits of tourism with the fear that travelers will trigger a resurgence of COVID.

An industry official said local governments were still concerned that foreign tourists could spread the virus, which would make it difficult to fully open up the country. Read more

Around a quarter of businesses said the government should bring the number of foreign visitors back to pre-pandemic levels this year, while 58% said it should wait until 2023 before doing so.

“You cannot rule out the possibility (of a reopening) of triggering a resurgence of infections,” a ceramics company official wrote in the survey on condition of anonymity. “However, vaccines prevent infections from getting worse. Even considering the risk, the merits of incoming demand outweigh the demerits.”

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, tourism was a rare bright spot for Japan, with a record high of around 32 million overseas tourists spending 4.81 trillion yen ($35.80 billion) in 2019. The government aims to attract 60 million tourists a year by 2030.

Japan has imposed some of the toughest border controls in the world during the pandemic, barring entry to almost all non-residents and plummeting tourism demand.

Seven in 10 businesses surveyed expected that as border measures eased, inbound tourism would help boost economic growth “somewhat” this financial year, while 18% saw it would. “significantly” to growth.

($1 = 134.3700 yen)

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Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by David Dolan and Bradley Perrett

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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