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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Removal of Fuel in Pool at Fukushima's Melted Reactor Begins

Science & Technology

7Dnews London

Mon, 15 Apr 2019 10:40 GMT

The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant has begun removing fuel from a cooling pool at one of three reactors that melted down in the 2011 Japan tsunami disaster, a milestone in the decades-long process to decommission the plant, as reported by AP.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said Monday, April 15th, that workers started removing the first of 566 used and unused fuel units stored in the pool at Unit 3. The fuel units in the pool located high up in reactor buildings are intact despite the disaster, so removing the units to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major quake. 

TEPCO said the removal at Unit 3 would take two years, followed by the two other reactors where about 1,000 fuel units remain in the storage pools. 

Removing the fuel in the cooling pools was delayed more than four years by mishaps, high radiation and radioactive debris from an explosion that occurred at the time of the reactor meltdown. 

Workers are remotely operating a crane built underneath a jelly roll-shaped roof cover to raise the fuel from a storage rack in the pool and place it into a protective cask.  

The whole process occurs underwater to prevent radiation leaks. Each cask will be filled with seven fuel units, then lifted from the pool and lowered to a truck that will transport the cask to a safer cooling pool elsewhere at the plant. 

The work is carried out remotely from a control room about 500 metres (yards) away because of still-high radiation levels inside the reactor building that houses the pool.

In 2014, TEPCO safely removed all 1,535 fuel units from the storage pool at a fourth reactor that was idle and had no fuel inside its core when the March 11th, 2011, earthquake and tsunami occurred. 

Removing fuel from the cooling pools will help free up space for the subsequent removal of the melted fuel, though details of how to gain access to it are yet to be decided. 

Experts say the melted fuel in the three reactors amounts to more than 800 tons.

TEPCO and government officials plan to determine methods for removing the melted fuel from each of the three damaged reactors later this year so they can begin the process in 2021.