Yoichi Masuzoe is the missing piece Prime Minister Shinzo Abe needed to forge his pro-nuclear energy policy as the newly elected Tokyo Governor is expected to give the nod to atomic power.
The former health minister’s decisive victory in the “nuclear” polls came as a relief for Abe who found himself on the same page as Masuzoe in terms of a long-term energy policy with nuclear energy as a key component of the country’s energy mix.
Although Masuzoe veered away from the nuclear issue that loomed large over the elections, his platform is largely pro-nuclear in that he favors reducing Japan’s dependence on nuclear power in the medium to long term.
Masuzoe beat former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, a prominent anti-nuclear figure, who had put opposition to atomic energy at the core of his platform.
“It was good that a person facing the same direction as the government was elected” to lead the city of 13.3 million people, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Emboldened by the turnout of the vote, which was viewed as a referendum on nuclear power, Abe expressed his intention to revive all of the 48 idled reactors across the country.
“I would like to achieve a balanced and feasible energy plan with responsibility and taking into account reality,” Abe said in Parliament on Monday.
Until the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011, atomic power accounted for 30 percent of Japan’s energy. All of Japan’s reactors were shut down in the wake of the disaster, forcing Japan to import its energy. But the cost has prompted debate whether to bring some reactors back online to tackle a ballooning energy bill.
Utility companies around the country have applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority to restart a total of 16 reactors.
The government still face opposition from the public. A Kyodo News survey last month revealed that 60.2 percent of Japanese were against restarting nuclear reactors while 31.6 percent were for it.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: Natsuki Kimura/Flickr