Shikoku Electric Power Co. said Thursday that it will suspend operations of the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant on Dec. 26 for routine checkups and remove spent mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel from the reactor.

This will mark the first removal of used MOX fuel, a blend of plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel and uranium, from any commercial nuclear power plant in Japan since an initiative on plu-thermal power generation using the mixed fuel was announced in 1997, according to the Shikoku utility.

The government and power firms are promoting plu-thermal power generation as part of the nuclear fuel cycle featuring the extraction of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse.

In 2010, Shikoku Electric started plu-thermal power generation using 16 MOX fuel assemblies at the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture.

The company plans to remove all of them during the reactor checkups through April 27 and will consider reusing the spent MOX fuel, which will likely be stored at the power plant for a while due to the lack of reprocessing facilities.

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