Anti-nuke candidates’ loss elates biz chiefs

Kyodo

Business leaders welcomed former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe’s victory Sunday in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, which represented a victory in their efforts to prevent the anti-nuclear lobby from harming their interests.

“We are hoping that the new governor will work well with the state on a host of matters, such as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” Hiromasa Yonekura, leader of Keidanren, said in a statement.

Yonekura, who heads Japan’s most influential business lobby, also voiced hope that Masuzoe would cooperate with the central government in tackling other concerns, including disaster countermeasures to mitigate the effects of a major earthquake feared to strike the Tokyo metropolitan area.

His remarks apparently reflected a sense of relief in business circles at Masuzoe’s triumph over former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa and Kenji Utsunomiya, former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. Both supported ending the use of nuclear energy because of consequences of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, and Hosokawa put special emphasis on the issue in his election campaign.

But Japan Inc., which sees nuclear power as an energy source critical to industrial operations, has been wary that an anti-nuclear governor in Tokyo could delay the restart of reactors.

An official of a major company said Masuzoe’s victory helped “halt the momentum in the debate on getting rid of nuclear power.”

Keidanren plans to pursue early restarts for reactors that pass the nation’s recently revamped safety tests and hopes restarts can ensure stable power supply and reduce the risk of hiking electricity bills in Japan.

The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis led to the drafting of new safety requirements that reactors must satisfy before they can be restarted. Japan currently has 48 operable commercial reactors.

Based on a survey by the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, many small and midsize firms have been struggling to deal with rising electricity prices.

Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), also hailed Masuzoe’s victory, saying in a statement that he hopes Masuzoe will take “the lead in promoting reforms” for Tokyo.