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 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:
- Obama Administration: Fewer nuke plants threatens U.S. CO2 reduction goals
- Rumblings of a German nuclear revival?
More pro-nuclear voices in Japan:
- Drumbeat grows louder for nuclear restart in Japan
- Japan lawmakers push for nuclear restart
- Realpolitik: Japan trades nuclear tech to Middle East in exchange for oil
- Turning Japan’s nuclear past into its future
- Just a partial nuclear restart would save Japan $20 billion
- Shares surge as Japan’s new leader looks to revive nuclear
- The shortest route: Russia ships gas to Japan via Arctic
- The economic case for nuclear power in Japan
- Fukushima utility: We could have prevented nuclear meltdowns
- Nuclear or not to nuclear: Japan struggles with the question
- How to avoid a nuclear meltdown: question authority
- From Fukushima’s home country: Nuclear will double
- Nuclear down, CO2 up in Japan, Germany
- Fukushima’s lesson: ‘Alternative’ nuclear, not ‘no’ nuclear