National

People living near nuclear plants voice hope, caution over Masuzoe

Kyodo

Residents of communities that host nuclear power plants were both hopeful and wary about former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe winning the Tokyo gubernatorial election Sunday.

Some said they expect Masuzoe, 65, to exercise leadership in energy policy as the new governor and will urge him not to ignore the number of anti-nuclear votes cast in the closely watched election.

“I wanted a candidate promising to bring the number of nuclear power plants to zero to win,” said Kazutoshi Mabuchi, a 68-year-old evacuee from Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

“Is it just people in Fukushima who hoped the election was about nuclear power?” Mabuchi asked, worried that people outside the prefecture might be forgetting about the nuclear crisis, which is still ongoing.

Masuzoe, who received support from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, is aiming for less dependence on nuclear power in the long run. His opponents, however, were endorsed by opposition parties who were pushing for immediate termination.

“It is a mere political performance to discuss whether Japan should keep nuclear power plants, but not their safety,” said Hiromi Maeda, a 59-year-old member of a cooperative union that promotes the use of both nuclear and green energy in Kashiwazaki, Niigawa Prefecture.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, approved a plan in January that includes restarting the reactors at its giant Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

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