This picture taken on February 3, 2020 shows the central control room for the unit one reactor at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)
TOKYO – Japan's industry minister on Tuesday said restarting Japan's idled nuclear reactors would help prop up the economy as the yen's recent weakness is further inflating energy imports.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a press conference that pressure to sell the yen for the US dollar could be eased as the rebooting of each reactor would mean 1 million tons less of liquified natural gas would need to be imported to resource-poor Japan.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a press conference that pressure to sell the yen for the US dollar could be eased as the rebooting of each reactor would mean 1 million tons less of liquified natural gas would need to be imported to resource-poor Japan
"This would become a countermeasure against yen depreciation," Nishimura said.
The yen has been persistently weak versus the US dollar recently, to the point that Japan intervened in the currency markets to support the yen on Sept 22 for the first time since 1998, to redress one-sided, rapid yen moves, as described by financial authorities here.
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Early Tuesday, Japan warned of further possible market operations as the yen remained weak, near a 32-year low around the 149 line against the US dollar in Tokyo.
This led to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida saying in parliament that the yen's rapid depreciation is "problematic" and the government will work with the Bank of Japan (BOJ) in taking appropriate steps.
The yen's ongoing weakness has seen already inflated energy imports and material costs soar, with the higher prices now weighing on Japanese households and firms and set to worsen as electricity consumption rises as winter and colder temperatures approach.
The majority of Japan's nuclear reactors remain offline in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeast Japan.
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Businesses have been calling for more nuclear reactors to be restarted and Kishida has said that up to nine idled reactors will be rebooted to deal with rising power demands during winter.