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 causedat the 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 , a prospect that .
Japan's fossil fuel increase has also, 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 .
Tokyo's pro-nuclear statement comes as thepower. 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 developingthat 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,, 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:
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com