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CEO Daniel Poneman Remarks at Order of the Rising Sun Conferment Ceremony

Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for your kind words, and to you and Mrs. Tomita for your gracious hospitality in opening your Residence here tonight.    

I would like to thank every one of you for joining us this evening.  Your Excellencies Al Otaiba, Kawar and Ashikbayev, Secretary Moniz, Chairman Hanson and Chair Connery, Deputy Assistant to the President Campbell, Assistant Secretary of Energy Light, Special Assistant to the President Kagan.

I am humbled and deeply grateful to the Government of Japan for this honor and to the many individuals who have made it possible.  These awards are really about teamwork, so I am accepting this on behalf of all the people I have had the privilege to work with on the US-Japan relationship going back 32 years, when I worked for National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and then Tony Lake in tackling the first North Korean nuclear crisis.  I want to thank so many of my former comrades in arms for being here…   I am not going to name you all because it is about half of the people here and we would never get to the buffet you are all waiting for!

One thing is clear.  The Prime Minister of Japan always sends the country’s finest diplomats to Washington.  Ambassador Tomita is no exception. In addition to his outstanding diplomatic career, Ambassador Tomita is a distinguished scholar and author, with two insightful biographies of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher to his credit.

Beyond colleagues in the Gaimusho such as Ambassador Tomita and Ambassador Sugiyama before him, the work reflected in this award owes a huge debt to many Japanese colleagues over many years, including JBIC Chairman Tadashi Maeda, National Security Advisor Takeo Akiba, Takashi Shimada and Takaya Imai from the Cabinet Office, Hirohide Hirai, Shin Hosaka, Ryo Minami, Hirobumi Kayama, Ichiro Takahara from METI, as well as colleagues from MEXT, JAEA, JNFL, and many, many more government and industry organizations. 

The US-Japan relationship has been strengthened by strong bipartisan support in this country, exemplified by leaders such as Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker.  When I was nominated to become Deputy Secretary of Energy, he called to congratulate me and, noting that he was a Republican and I was about to work for a Democratic President, said that “if it helps for me to be for you, I’ll be for you, and if it helps for me to be against you, I’ll be against you.” 

Our two nations are united by shared values and interests.  The relationship rests on the unshakeable alliance based on the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty signed by Prime Minister Kishi and President Eisenhower, whose granddaughter Susan is with us here today.  Our economies are deeply intertwined.  The Japanese people and the American people are bound by ties of deep friendship. And let’s not forget our cultural ties, represented here tonight by Max Weinberg.  During the time I was studying nonproliferation, Max was playing nine shows in Japan with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band!

When it comes to energy, the United States is fortunate to be blessed with abundant natural resources.  By accident of geology Japan is less well situated, so the Government has always understandably and properly focused on ensuring that its people and industry have reliable access to the energy they need to prosper. As strong partners and allies, the United States must leverage its energy resources and capabilities to promote the energy security and needs of the Japanese people, and Japan must leverage its incredible innovative and industrial capacity to create the energy technologies we all need for the future.

That is why, during my time as Deputy Secretary, the Department of Energy was proud to promote U.S. LNG exports to strengthen Japan’s energy security, and clean energy cooperation to combat climate change. 

Of course, nuclear energy plays an indispensable role on both fronts.  From the instant we learned of the Great East Japan Earthquake, many of us in this room worked literally around the clock with colleagues throughout the Japanese government, alongside the White House and all US agencies, to help provide aid and relief to the Japanese people, as well as technical support to the Japanese Government as it led heroic efforts to respond to the dangerous situation created at Fukushima Daichi. 

When President Obama and Prime Minister Noda responded to that crisis by establishing the Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, I was honored to co-chair that process for over two years and then to hand the baton over to Deputy Secretary Liz Sherwood-Randall, with thanks for her outstanding leadership of the Commission.

The Ukraine invasion has upended energy markets around the world and underscores the importance of our partnership. Nowhere is this truer than in the field of nuclear energy.  No form of energy is more concentrated.  Just three tablespoons of advanced nuclear fuel will supply one person’s energy needs for life, while emitting zero carbon. 

The United States and Japan have a crucial opportunity to restore the role of nuclear energy in meeting climate and energy security goals. We must seize that opportunity.  Scientists agree that we need to at least double nuclear energy by 2050 to meet international climate goals. To borrow a phrase from Secretary Moniz: “that ain’t math, it’s arithmetic.” 

The United States and Japan can develop and deploy the next generation of reactors in our own countries and around the world.  Just as importantly, the United States and Japan must cooperate in providing the nuclear fuel needed to support both existing reactors and the exciting new generation of designs coming down the road.  In doing so, we can provide energy security for our own countries, our partners, and allies, while setting and enforcing global nonproliferation standards that are second to none.

Let me close on a personal note.  I would not be here at all were it not for the love and support of my family.  That began with my wonderful parents, Meyer and Delores Poneman, who sadly are no longer with us, and my brother David and sister Carol, and their spouses, Elin and John, who gladly are, as well as my amazing wife of 38 years, Susan, and our equally amazing children Claire, Michael, and William, who make it all worthwhile.

Mr. Ambassador, to end where I began, I sincerely thank you, Mrs. Tomita, and the Government of Japan.  I would also like to thank the incredible staff at the Embassy, which worked so hard to prepare this event.  I look forward to many more years of the close teamwork and cooperation that has brought both nations great benefit, with much more yet to come.

Thank you.

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