Workmen are seen the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Photo: AFP
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Fuel removal device installed at Fukushima reactor

30 Comments

Workers at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have installed a device to remove nuclear fuel from a meltdown-hit reactor nearly seven years after the crisis was sparked by a tsunami, a spokesman said Monday.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), said it started putting a crane on the roof of the No. 3 reactor on Sunday to extract a total of 566 rods from its fuel pool.

It will be the first removal of fuel rods from one of the three reactors that melted down when the tsunami struck the plant in March 2011.

TEPCO has already removed fuel rods from unit No. 4 whose reactor core was empty when the tsunami crashed ashore.

It plans to start removing rods from the fuel pool of No. 3 reactor "sometime around the middle of the next fiscal year" starting in April 2018, TEPCO spokesman Atsushi Sugiyama said.

It has yet to start removing any fuel from the reactor cores of the three meltdown-hit units, as the complicated decommissioning process is expected to last for decades.

The magnitude 9.0 quake, which struck under the Pacific Ocean, and the tsunami it spawned left about 18,500 people dead or missing and overwhelmed cooling systems at the plant.

The quake and tsunami also caused extensive damage to homes and property while radiation spread over a wide area, with more than 450,000 people evacuating in the immediate aftermath.

© 2017 AFP

©2017 GPlusMedia Inc.

30 Comments
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Congratulations after 7 years progress

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Ah, so not corium, just fuel rods from one of the spent fuel rod pools.

Even so, this is a step in the right direction and something special as No.3 is one of the three most highly radioactive buildings. Step by step one gets to Rome.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A positive step and making progress at least. Progress is slow but the people there are working under quite difficult circumstances.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Fukushima like Toyosu might not make daily news but people at both sides work hard to get things sorted.

Slow and steady rather than rushed and Ooopsy.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

sometime around the middle of the next fiscal year

sounds pretty professional planning.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Good luck, makes us safe.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Seems to be moving along at a good and well though out pace! Things like this take time and need to be handled very carefully indeed. If you rush that's when accidents happen.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

After 7 years of litigation - Finally!!!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Looks like a few folks posting here on Japan today can do a better job working in this environment than the engineers working up there.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Before anybody gets too excited, they are removing fuel rods from spent fuel storage, not going into the destroyed reactor.

They admit it will take at least two generations of engineers, managers, specialists, and workers to do what they can to "clean" it up.

Why do we still trust them?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Are the spent fuel rods and fuel rod assemblies cool down enough to be moved next year??? If should not they be immediately placed in a cask instead of dangling on a crane. If the number 3SPF is cool and stable I would have entombed reactor 3 entirely, SPF included

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Are the spent fuel rods and fuel rod assemblies cool down enough to be moved next year??

Yes, they are more than cooled down enough. 3 years is plenty to not need active water cooling and these rods have had at least 7 years.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

TEPCO, will begin to remove spent fuel rods from Fukushima Daiichi NPS Unit 3. Unit 3 spent Fuel Rods are composed of 93% uranium and 7% plutonium also known as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. Thank you TEPCO for announcing to the world your intention to begin removal of MOX spent fuel rods from Unit 3 spent fuel pool. NOTE 435 million kilograms of molten melted radioactive nuclear fuel, location unknown, from Units 1, 2, and 3 is still unaccounted for and waiting for discovery and identification utilizing Muon Energy Location Technology (MELT). Removing intact solid fuel rods from storage in onsite Spent Fuel Pool is a smart thing to do. Where will the MOX Fuel Rods be taken too? Oh I forgot. I'm supposed to listen and not ask questions.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@gkamburoff - Can I ask what your profession is? The environment they are working in is not exactly conducive to immediate results. Most of the people working there had nothing to do with the accident and are trying to fix the mess. If you can do better or have a better idea I would suggest you offer it up. This is a milestone and in this situation every milestone is important.

@Utrack - The rods should be suitable for moving at this point in time. Entombment would be difficult as the major mechanism of release is via ground water and entombment would require getting far enough under the reactor building to solve this problem. One wishes it were that simple.

@Christopher - It is a very good question - where they will be taken too. I believe for now these will remain on site (as they should)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

MOX is also more radio-toxic and more unstable than regular uranium fuel. MOX fuel is hotter and harder to handle as well. Safety first should be the motto when handling MOX fuel.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Using the concrete that sets under water may help. Like the kind used for bridges. It may also seal the cracks that the water is coming through to the reactor basements

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

A huge step in a long process. But the folks up there need a win. The conditions working around those reactors everyday must nerve wracking. Your work place could very well kill you. Just one slip up.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Most everyone here seems to be happy that Tepco managed to installed a crane after seven years? Wow!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Stuart.

I hope you are advising Tepco as do how to do it properly and faster.

Looking forward to your successes. ;)

0 ( +2 / -2 )

pacint, a crane takes a week to two weeks to install, not seven years. Its the removal of fuel rods and melted fuel that will take an unknown amount of time.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

NOTE 435 million kilograms of molten melted radioactive nuclear fuel, location unknown, from Units 1, 2, and 3 is still unaccounted for

That number is way off.

A 1000MWe reactor has a load out of about 100 metric tons of fuel rods in the core. None of the damaged reactors are that big (#1 is 460MWe while #2 & 3 are 784MWe). But even using the 1000MWe number gives 100 metric tons 3 reactors 1000 kilograms per ton = 300,000 kilograms. Less than 1/1000th of the value given.

a crane takes a week to two weeks to install

Not when they are dealing with high levels of radiation, have to make sure and not stir up contaminated dust, have to ensure the building is stable and that the addition of the crane won't cause undue stresses on the structure.

And every step they take has to be approved by the regulators and just looking at the ice wall we can see the regulators have made every job take many times as long as would be expected.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Mike O'Brien

Not when they are dealing with high levels of radiation, have to make sure and not stir up contaminated dust,

"Says the guy who has consistently claimed nuclear energy is SAFE & CHEEP"

have to ensure the building is stable and that the addition of the crane won't cause undue stresses on the structure.

Seven years is more than enough time to build a new foundation structure that isn't built directly on top of the original.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Like I said Stuart, pls move up there and share your wisdom/knowledge with them.

Sure they will welcome it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

pacint, Please show me where you already stated that I should move there. Oh, that's right, you never did.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"Says the guy who has consistently claimed nuclear energy is SAFE & CHEEP"

To quote someone else, 'Please show me where I stated that.'

Seven years is more than enough time to build a new foundation structure that isn't built directly on top of the original.

And I never said it wasn't. With the required approvals, the lack of space and the issue with ground water, I doubt building a new foundation was possible. But if you have the engineering and physical data to show that it was possible then please share it with us, or you could have at least shared it with TEPCO and help everyone involved.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Mike O'Brien:

"Here is YOUR comment in which you said NUCLEAR POWER IS CHEEP AND SAFE!"

Nov. 28, 2016  10:40 pm JST

Posted in: Fukushima nuclear plant decommission, compensation costs to almost double  See in context

Please tell me again how nuclear power is so cheap and safe.

Nuclear power is cheap and safe.

I'm very interested to hear your supporting arguments..

No you're not.

"Do you remember now? That's not the only time either, would you like more?"

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Nuclear power is cheap and safe.

Sure looks to me like I said cheap, not CHEEP.

But ignoring that. How many died from the Fukushima plants melting down? Zero.

How many died from the tsunami? More than zero.

And compared to other electrical generating methods it sure looks pretty cost competitive.

https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/studies/levelized-cost-of-new-generating-technologies/

Especially when you consider natural gas is greatly effected by fuel costs, unlike nuclear. So as demand increases or supply decreases NG plants cost quickly go up.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Mike O'Brien, Nuclear Energy is neither cheap or safe as you have claimed.

Your cost comparisons are based on very limited energy sources. My small house is almost completely off grid, solar, wind and a portable fuel cell generator give me 30amps to run everything except my old heating unit which I'll replace this year.

There are very few safety issues in regards to how I generate electricity. However, nuclear energy is far from safe and as you pointed out, it's so dangerous, even just kicking up the dust at Fukushimaa power plant is a problem.

There are many chemical and biological weapons that haven't actually killed anyone but that doesn't mean they are safe, like Nuclear Energy, it's not safe if you're directly exposed to it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Your cost comparisons are based on very limited energy sources.

First it isn't my cost comparison. Second it includes everything you list except fuel cells.

My small house is almost completely off grid, solar, wind and a portable fuel cell generator

So tell me, are the factories that made your solar, wind and a portable fuel cell generator almost completely off grid? Those things are fine for small applications but fail at large scale.

Personally I don't own or need a vehicle, virtually everything I need is within easy walking or biking distance. But I realize that without vehicle most of what I can get within walking distance would be there because it needs to be transported to me even if I don't directly use the transportation. Although at home you might not directly use grid power, you could not live your life without grid power supplying the energy to produce the things you need.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Mike O'Brien

You have it all wrong mate, your question is no different then me asking you if all your products and daily electric consumption ONLY comes from nuclear generated power.

I think you already know that less than 15% of your power is does. I'm not a monk living in a cave nor are you but every little bit we do, makes us less dependent on oil and gas.

If there's another natural disaster, I'll most likely still have power and it won't be causing another environmental disaster if my energy sources are destroyed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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