Ehime reactor second to start MOX operation

Plant gets quake OK; radioactive leak, probe delayed 'pluthermal' test

MATSUYAMA, Ehime Pref. (Kyodo) A nuclear reactor in Ehime Prefecture was activated Monday for the country’s second “pluthermal” power generation operation using plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel.

Shikoku Electric Power Co. activated the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata power plant in the process to start a self-sustaining chain reaction, which was expected to occur Tuesday, setting the stage for the start of power generation with the MOX fuel Thursday.

The facility will enter the commercial operation phase March 30, following the completion of regular checkups if it passes final government-mandated inspections after boosting its power output.

The pluthermal plan at the Ikata plant has been delayed for nearly a week because of a minor radioactive leak and a subsequent investigation.

Shikoku Electric applied to conduct pluthermal power generation in 2004 and obtained government approval in 2006. The central and local governments approved the reactor’s quake-resistant capabilities in January, paving the way for the pluthermal run.

Pluthermal, or plutonium-thermal, power generation is regarded as a pillar of Japan’s nuclear energy policy. The first such operation commenced at the Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture last November after a delay caused by coverups of reactor problems at various nuclear plants and opposition from local governments and residents.

Chubu Electric Power Co. in Nagoya and Kansai Electric Power Co. in Osaka are planning to start pluthermal operations during fiscal 2010, which starts April 1.