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Japan’s power industry group has asked member companies to rethink their plans for plutonium-thermal power generation because they are unlikely to meet their current targets for adopting the technique, sources said Thursday.

The move by the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan is likely to affect national nuclear policy because the so-called pluthermal generation is necessary if Japan is to achieve its goal of launching a sustainable atomic power cycle.

The industry planned to launch pluthermal generation at 16 to 18 reactors across the country by March 2011, but only three reactors are ready.

Pluthermal generation involves use of uranium and plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium extracted through the reprocessing of spent fuel is used in MOX fuel.

The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has also expressed a desire to re-examine the plan to introduce pluthermal generation by fiscal 2010.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. is scheduled to launch plutonium-thermal generation in November, followed by Shikoku Electric Power Co. in January and Chubu Electric Power Co. in summer 2010 at the earliest.

Unlike these three utilities, which have had MOX fuel shipped in from France, other power firms, including Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co., are behind schedule in obtaining the fuel or gaining approval from the central or local governments.

Japan’s lone fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture is still undergoing trial runs, and the nation has had to depend on Britain and France for years to reprocess spent fuel.

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