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» The future of nuclear power policy is a major issue in the Tokyo gubernatorial election

The future of nuclear power policy is a major issue in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, and voters in the capital, which consumes 10 percent of all electricity generated in Japan, are keeping it ranked high despite doubts the capital can have an official say.The governor has no official power to alter national energy policy, but experts say the position allows the capital to take the initiative on energy issues in a way that can impact national policy.Since the race for the Feb. 9 election kicked off on Jan. 23, the major candidates have underscored their stances on the issue.

Former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, who remains the front-runner, according to media surveys, said he wants to “create a society that is not dependent on nuclear power generation” and promote the use of more renewable energy sources, including solar and wind.

His rival, former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, backed by fellow ex-Prime Minister and anti-nuclear advocate Junichiro Koizumi, said he would end Tokyo’s dependence on atomic power if elected and set up a panel of experts to explore the capital’s energy policies and options.

Kenji Utsunomiya, a lawyer and former chairman of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said he would push for a nuclear-free capital and launch a committee to draw up an effective energy policy to abolish nuclear power.

Recent media surveys showed the public has keen interest in Japan’s future with atomic energy.

In a Kyodo News telephone survey over the weekend of 1,540 randomly dialed households that drew 1,040 responses, 30.6 percent said the economy and employment are the most important issues in the race, followed by 27.3 percent focused on the aging population, low birthrate and welfare. Nuclear power and energy in general came in third at 14.7 percent, down nearly 4 points from the previous poll.

Other media surveys showed a similar trend, with respondents ranking the nuclear issue third in importance.

Meanwhile, a Nihon Keizai Shimbun telephone survey between Jan. 30 and Feb. 2 said that 53 percent of the 539 respondents oppose the restart of idled nuclear reactors, 29 percent support restarts, 50 percent want atomic energy phased out, and 11 percent said it should be abolished immediately.

<Media Report>

National or not, nuclear issue ranks high with Tokyo voters (Japan Times)







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