Japanese Prime Minister KishidaJapanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), told a news conference that he had asked Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Koichi Hagiuda to have up to nine nuclear power units in operation by winter. He also wants to secure capacity from 10 additional thermal power plants to ensure sufficient generating capacity, in face of potential energy shortages.

“We are aiming to put as many nuclear reactors as possible online,” said Kishida. “We will have up to nine reactors operating this winter to secure enough sources of energy to cover about 10% of Japan’s overall power consumption.” He added: "Once accomplished, we will have the highest supply capacity in the last three years," Kishida said. "As per the government's responsibility, we will make every effort to ensure stable power supply for this winter as well as in the future by considering various measures."

Before the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, nuclear energy accounted for about 30% of Japan's energy balance. Following the earthquake and tsunami which caused the accident, Japan closed all 54 of its nuclear power units and introduced more stringent safety requirements for their restart. Of the 33 currently considered to be operable, 10 have so far been restarted.

Kishida’s directive came after METI had raised concerns over potential LNG supply disruptions after Russia issued a decree involving organisational changes at the Sakhalin 2 LNG project.

The fuel procurement risk was noted as part of a package of actions approved at a ministerial meeting the same day, which are intended to ensure Japan’s summer and winter power supply and demand balance.

Speaking after the meeting, Hagiuda said Japan decided a series of actions, including restarting mothballed power plants, undertaking additional fuel procurements and utilising renewables and nuclear power.

Of the 10 reactors currently allowed to operate after meeting the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA’s) more stringent post Fukushima safety and anti-terrorism requirements, five are in operation, although one is due to be halted in September to implement additional measures. Those in operation unit 3 of Kansai Electric Power Co’s Ohi NPP in Fukui Prefecture; unit 3 of Shikoku Electric Power Co’s Ikata NPP in Ehime Prefecture; units 1&2 of Kyushu Electric Power Co’s Sendai NPP in Kagoshima Prefecture; and unit 4 of Kyushu’s Genkai NPP in Saga Prefecture. In August, unit 4 at the Ohi NPP, which restarted on 15 July is due to begin commercial operation. However, Genkai 4 will be shut down for further work.

The other four which are operational are currently offline for routine inspections or security work include unit 3 of Kansai’s Mihama NPP in Fukui, and units 3&4 of Kansai’s Takahama NPP also in Fukui and Genkai 3. According to government sources, the nine reactors planned to be in operation by winter are Kansai’s Ohi 3&4, Mihama 3 and Takahama 3&4, as well as Kyushu’s Genkai 3 and Sendai 1&2 and Shikoku’s Ikata 3. All nine have been online at least once since NRA’s screening process.