Trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda on July 6 said that all of Japan's nuclear power plants must undergo "stress tests" that comprehensively evaluate their safety. The same day, Prime Minister Naoto Kan told the Diet that he had instructed officials concerned to work out new rules for verifying the safety of nuclear power plants, indicating that the results of stress tests will be the basis on judging on whether nuclear power plants now out of operation should be restarted. On Monday, the government said that in the first round, safety-related components of reactors that are going through regular checks but are ready for operation will be tested, and that in the second round, all reactors in operation will undergo comprehensive safety tests.

On June 18, Mr. Kaieda declared that the nation's operators of nuclear power plants had taken adequate measures to handle severe accidents and called for restarting power plants that are not operating. Currently, 35 of Japan's 54 nuclear power plants are out of operation due to regular checks or accidents.

The call for stress tests by the government is tantamount to denial of Mr. Kaieda's June 18 declaration. It proves that the declaration was a political gimmick designed to hasten the restart of nuclear power plants to prevent power shortages in summer. It also betrays that the government is not confident about the safety of nuclear power plants at this stage.