Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a news conference that the tests will be carried out in two stages, taking into account standards proposed by the European Union in the wake of the crisis triggered at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant by the massive earthquake and tsunami in March.
Edano said the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan will play a major role in conducting the tests.
As the commission is "an independent" body, unlike the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the government cannot say when the screenings will begin and finish, he said.
The second stage of the tests will be more comprehensive. Depending on the results, Japanese nuclear power plants that are now in operation could be suspended.
The tests are aimed at assessing whether some 50 Japanese nuclear reactors are capable of withstanding the kind of catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country's northeast on March 11.