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East Asia Energy Advisory

Japan’s nuclear dilemma and Asia’s LNG hunger.

Japan

The pro-nuclear camp has won the critical 9 February Tokyo gubernatorial elections, and while this is not a straight-out victory for the pro-nuclear forces, it was a decisive election that, had it gone the other way, would have certainly been a defeat for Japanese nuclear energy. Former health and welfare minister Yoichi Masuzoe won the elections, backed by pro-nuclear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as the Japan Trade Union Confederation, of which Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is a member.

The issue of whether to scrap nuclear energy entirely in the wake of the Fukushima disaster had threatened to take precedence over other critical socio-economic issues, such as health care, and the 2020 Olympic Games. Masuzoe was the only “pro-nuclear” candidate running in the election—against a powerful “zero-nuclear” force that included gubernatorial candidate Morihiro Hosowaka, a former prime minister himself, backed by former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.

While Hosokawa and another candidate, Kenji Utsunomiya, called for a permanent moratorium on nuclear power generation, Masuzoe lent his support to a gradual decrease of reliance on nuclear power to eventually be replaced by renewable energy. Together, Hosokawa and Utsunomiya won about 40% of the vote.

This gubernatorial election was critical because Tokyo consumes about 10% of Japan’s electricity,…

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