OSAKA — Antinuclear protesters on Tuesday called on Kansai Electric Power Co. not to restart its mixed-plutonium uranium oxide (MOX) program and demanded a public hearing before the utility signs any contracts with a French firm to manufacture the fuel.

On Monday, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa indicated he would allow the utility to use the controversial fuel at the nuclear plant in Takahama.

“It has been reported that Kepco is about to conclude a contract with Cogema to manufacture nuclear fuel,” said Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action Kyoto. “We call on Kepco to hold a public hearing into the matter in Fukui and in the Kansai region before any such contracts are signed.”

Kepco officials have denied media reports that the utility will soon sign a contract with Cogema to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from Japan into MOX fuel, but have refused to comment on the details of their contacts with Cogema. Kepco has said it wants to restart its MOX program by 2007.

Antinuclear activists are especially concerned about a possible agreement with Cogema because, in addition to reprocessing spent fuel from commercial reactors, it is heavily involved in France’s nuclear weapons program.

While the fuel from Japan would not be reprocessed at the same Cogema facility that makes atomic weapons fuel, activists question the propriety of the deal.

“We are concerned about Kepco doing business with a company like Cogema, which is at the center of France’s nuclear weapons program and will profit from the deal,” Smith said.

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