Nuclear power looms large as the race for Tokyo governor begins


Many Japanese held their breaths as the race for a new Tokyo governor officially began Thursday, leading up to a closely-watched election that could determine the metropolis’ stance on the contentious nuclear energy issue.

Anti-nuclear champion former Prime Minister Morihoro Hosokawa is among the leading candidates in the runup to the gubernatorial vote on February 9. Hosokawa is flanked by candidates equally opposed to atomic energy but Hosokawa has strong backing from anti-nuclear heavyweight Junichiro Koizumi.

“At issue is whether we will abolish nuclear reactors and build a vibrant nation with renewable energy or will we hold on to nuclear reactors and have our country decline,” Hosokawa said on the campaign trail.

“We have to stop the policy of restarting nuclear plants as soon as possible and adapt to a new era.”

Another forerunner is former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, endorsed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Masuzoe said his focus is to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics a success. Concerning the nuclear issue, Masuzoe wants to reduce the ratio of nuclear power in Japan’s energy mix.

Lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, endorsed by the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, also opposes nuclear energy.

“Let’s make a stride toward a nuclear-free society from Tokyo,” Utsunomiya said.

Other contenders include Toshio Tamogami, 65, a former chief of staff of the Air Self-Defense Force, Kazuma Ieiri, 35, an executive of an Internet-related company, and inventor “Doctor” Nakamatsu, 85.

The governor of Tokyo has no actual power to change national energy policy, but considering the sheer size of the metropolis, the outcome of the polls could very well influence the nation’s stance. Tokyo is also a major shareholder of Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: rhythmsift/Flickr



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