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Tokyo votes for nuclear power

Posting in Cities

 

Yoichi Masuzoe_210_Herman Wiki.jpg
Number One Man wants number one city, using nuclear power. Yoichi Masuzoe won as Tokyo's only pro-nuclear candidate.
 The citizens of Tokyo have voted and the landslide results are in: They'll install pro-nuclear politician Yoichi Masuzoe as their next governor - the Japanese term for "mayor."

Masuzoe trounced his two closest rivals, both of whom campaigned against nuclear.

The BBC reported

The vote had been seen as a test of popular sentiment on nuclear power. Mr Masuzoe agrees with government plans to restart Japan's nuclear reactors, while his two closest rivals campaigned on an anti-nuclear platform. He won 2.1 million votes, more than the combined total of his two nearest rivals.

Nuclear had provided about 30 percent of Japan's electricity, but the country has gone virtually without it since a tragic earthquake and tsunami caused avoidable meltdowns at the poorly managed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station nearly three years ago. All of the country's 50-plus reactors are currently shut for safety concerns, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants operators to begin opening them again. So, too, does Tokyo's Masuzoe.

With the shutdowns Japan has had to import a huge volume of fossil fuels to provide electricity that nuclear had generated, a maneuver that has caused Japan's CO2 emissions to skyrocket so much that the country has backed way off earlier CO2 reduction goals. Nuclear power does not emit CO2 during the generating process and emits relatively little over the lifetime of a plant. The U.S. Department of Energy underscored nuclear's eco-friendliness last week when it publicly worried that a reduction in U.S. atomic power would cause the country to miss its climate targets, a prospect that MIT raised last year

Japan's fossil fuel increase has also harmed its economy, as the costly imports have triggered a damaging trade imbalance.  And Japanese experts have worried about the long-term stability of reliance on fossil fuels, which Japan buys from unstable regions like the Middle East.

Tokyo's pro-nuclear statement comes as the German government hints at reconsidering its decision to abandon nuclear power. Closures in Germany have spiked up coal use and have led to surging CO2 emissions and electricity prices. 

Officials in both countries would be smart to mark the return by developing new forms of nuclear power that are safer, less waste producing, more useful (newfangled reactors can replace fossil fuels as industrial heat sources in high temperature processes like making steel and cement) and less costly than the conventional reactors that have defined nuclear for the last 50 years. 

Alternatives include new reactor types such as molten salt reactors and pebble beds; they also include thorium fuel as a replacement for uranium. At least one company in Japan, Thorium Tech Solution, is working on one.

Masuzoe promised to make Tokyo and its population of 13 million people "the number one city in the world."

Keeping the lights on would help. 

Photo is from VOA Photos/S. Herman via Wikimedia

There's more than one way to harness nuclear power:

Recent pro-nuclear noise in the U.S. and Germany:

More pro-nuclear voices in Japan: 


— By on February 10, 2014, 4:49 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure