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The Ehime Prefectural Government on Monday approved a pluthermal project by Shikoku Electric Power Co. to burn plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide fuel at one of its nuclear reactors in Ikata.

The town of Ikata has already given the go-ahead.

Shikoku Electric will soon file an application with the central government to gain its approval of the plan.

The utility has briefed residents about the project at the Ikata nuclear plant’s No. 3 reactor on safety factors.

The prefectural government has said a committee has confirmed the basic safety of the pluthermal project.

Pluthermal, or plutonium-thermal power generation, is designed to use plutonium-uranium MOX fuel, which makes use of spent fuel at nuclear reactors for power generation, and unload a growing volume of spent nuclear fuel.

After receiving a formal go-ahead from the national government, Shikoku Electric will buy MOX fuel for use for the pluthermal project. The power industry envisages pluthermal-based power generation at 16 to 18 reactors by 2010.

Pluthermal projects have stalled at two early starters — Kansai Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The project at Kepco was shelved after it was revealed in 1999 that the utility had falsified MOX-related data. A fatal accident at Kepco’s Mihama nuclear plant in August also caused a setback.

Tepco suffered a similar setback in its pluthermal project after it was revealed that it had covered up safety defects in its reactors.

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