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Tokyo Electric Power Co. will postpone the launch of plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel at its nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture because of opposition from the governor, company sources said Thursday.

In April, the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was scheduled to become the first nuclear plant to use MOX fuel. However, Fukushima Gov. Eisaku Sato said last month that the prefecture will not allow MOX to be used because residents are against it.

MOX, a pellet mixture of uranium dioxide and plutonium dioxide, is designed to be burned in light-water reactors, a process known as plutonium thermal use.

Plutonium is obtained by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from nuclear plants.

Sato has said the government must review its energy policy, including the use of MOX fuel.

Tepco also plans to start using MOX fuel at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, and Kansai Electric Power Co. intends to do the same at its Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui. Both plants sit along the Sea of Japan coast.

The electric power industry plans to carry out the “pluthermal” project, which uses MOX fuel in a thermal reactor, at 16 to 18 reactors by 2010.

The project was originally scheduled to be launched in 1999, but a safety-data falsification and coverup scandal put things on hold.

Plebiscite petition

NIIGATA (Kyodo) Residents and assembly members of the village of Kariwa, Niigata Prefecture, filed an official petition Thursday requesting the village establish an ordinance to allow a plebiscite to be conducted on a plan to use plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel at a local nuclear plant.

Village officials said the petition was filed with village chief Hiroo Shinada, and the Kariwa assembly is expected to deliberate on an ordinance bill during an extraordinary session convening in April.

The move follows the March 2 submission by a group of Kariwa residents and assembly members of the signatures of 1,540 eligible voters, 37 percent of the total voters in the village.

The petition calls for a plebiscite over the so-called pluthermal project at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, which is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The plant received 28 containers of MOX fuel Saturday from France, but it has not yet been officially decided when the project will be launched.

In March 1999, the assemblies of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa on the Sea of Japan coast rejected a petition calling for a plebiscite over the issue.

The Kariwa assembly in December passed a similar bill submitted by assembly members, but Shinada vetoed it and ordered the assembly to deliberate the issue again and revote. The bill was rejected in January.

The pluthermal process entails using MOX fuel — made by mixing uranium with plutonium chemically extracted from spent nuclear fuel — to power a thermal reactor.

The utility plans to introduce the system at the plant’s No. 3 reactor.

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