Japan to speed up Fukushima nuclear plant cleanup

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Yoko Kubota

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It's good that they came to their senses, probably a lot of international pressure there I reckon.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Do not know why they do not remove the undamaged fuel?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

with the speed they have been moving, they can't get much slower!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Looking at the situation, it will be near impossible for TEPCO to speed up the removal of all the nuclear fuel in the reactors and the spent fuel pools, which I think amounts to about  6,000 fuel assemblies with 400+ rods each.

It will be easy to remove the spent fuel from reactors No5&6 which were mostly undamaged by the disaster. The nuclear fuel in reactors 1-3 had meltdowns,so there's no fuel to remove. Recently, TEPCO discovered the radiation level inside the No2 containment vessel was 70 sieverts/hour and the radiation level on the 5th floor, which houses the spent fuel pool was 800+millisieverts/hour. The radiation in No1 reactor is also very high. No worker can spend much time inside reactors 1&2. The No3 reactor was the most destroyed and the spent fuel pool is the most damaged, even containing the 35 ton overhead crane that was used for removing nuclear fuel.

The No4 spent fuel pool is probably another easier one. TEPCO have removed much of the small debris but still needs to remove the larger debris. It has covered the spent fuel with a large and heavy steel cover to prevent further debris from entering the pool. The underneath of the spent pool, weighting 1,670 tons, not including the weight of the new steel cover, has been reinforced with 2 feet thick of concrete and steel.

Once all the debris is removed, TEPCO will have to build a new building or structure alongside the No4 reactor which will take a new crane for removing the spent fuel.

Whatever happens with the No4 reactor, will take more than 10 times longer with the No3 reactor.

It's unlikely, the spend fuel in reactors 1&2 will be able to be removed for decades. The No2 suppression chamber is cracked and leaking cooling water. There is also a leak on the reactor lid.

The common spent fuel pool were the fuel goes after the reactors has a damaged overhead crane and needs repair. From there the fuel is put into dry casks and stored in a special building down on the docks. To date, TEPCO have not checked the condition of the dry casks or the spent fuel inside of them. The dry cask storage is full, so they will have to be removed off site, or another new storage building made.

There's no known way to remove the melted fuel. The technology does not exist.

I can't see it taking less than 50-100 years to decommission the plant, and it will be nearer 100 years rather than 50.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Hosono must be something of a dreamer?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Zichi. Thanks for the details. I think there is too much science involved with this kind of disaster and people get confused about what has happened and what is required.

It's disheartening to think that the govt will pay men larger than usual sums of money to clean up the mess "faster" but then expose themselves to harmful amounts of radiation. Like the liquidators in Chernobyl who had to be buried in cement caskets because their bodies were so radioactive.

This is a never ending horrible disaster..

4 ( +4 / -0 )

zichi, here in Japan everything is possible and nothing is a problem.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

which I think amounts to about 6,000 fuel assemblies with 400+ rods each.

Really? That's rather a lot.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will begin removing fuel rods from a damaged reactors a year ahead of schedule, a government minister said Thursday, a move to address concerns about the risk of a new quake that could cause a further accident and scatter more radioactive debris.

As I said on another article's comments section, this guy ↓ knows what he's talking about:

Parliament approved a law on Wednesday for a more independent regulatory body. The regulatory agency has up to now been placed under the ministry that also promoted the use of nuclear power, one key factor experts blame for the failure to avert the Fukushima crisis.

I doubt that this will change anything, just the places the envelopes of cash go.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )


Not welcome news, but it's good that somebody goes to the effort of doing some research rather than the usual baseless assumptions and Japan bashing.

I'm curious as to where you do get all of your information though. Care to share your sources?

As for me, I'm no expert but I wonder if just burying the entire in large amounts of reinforced concrete and lead shielding would work? Didn't they do something similar in Chernobyl?

Can't help feel sorry for the locals - bashers should remember they are Japanese too and they were not responsible for what happened. J-haters should consider that the next time they feel the need to portray the entire country as stupid.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Yes, let's speed up the cleanup with Japan's latest nuclear disaster recovery technology: tape (japanese only)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I get my info from reading the stuff TEPCO puts on its web site. I also read the exskf blog which does a good job of translating Japanese doc's into English. I also read several pro nuke blogs because I find them more accurate with the facts. Check out one called Hiroshima Syndroma. I read the stuff from the American atomic safety agencies.

Basically I just have them on my RSS Feed reader, so info comes in has its published without me needing to go looking for it, except the TEPCO site. which was easier before and now its a bit more difiicult to go digging. But mostly, I think over the last 6 months, or since Kan left office, TEPCO are quite transparent about what they are going at the Fukushima NPP, but not transparent in accepting some of the responsibility for causing the nuclear idsaster.

Since I live in Jaapa, and I love living here, I'm not into the "Japan bashing thing".

I don't consider myself any kind of expert, and have never said that. In fact, even though I'm a former electrical engineer, prior to the 3/11 disaster I knew very little about nuclear power plants.

7 ( +8 / -1 )


As for me, I'm no expert but I wonder if just burying the entire in large amounts of reinforced concrete and lead shielding would work? Didn't they do something similar in Chernobyl?

That could happen, eventually, but I believe before they could do that, would require tunnelling under the reactors first, to install a thick bed of concrete and steel and install a system of instrumentation and measurement. Chernobyl isn't next to the sea.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I wonder where to TEPCO would move the thousands of used uranium fuels in the pools. They are still inside the collapsed buildings. Tokyo would have to accept to make fuel pools somewhere in here after dismantling the Fukushima Daiichi Plants.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So in other words they could have been doing it faster a lot sooner? There was no risk during the past year and more?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan still does not have a long term solution to storing highly irradiated spent fuel for hundreds and thousands of years. Following the 3/11 nuclear disaster, I doubt there are many communities willing to have one in their back yard.

Last year, Minister Hosono, requested all the power companies stop using the system of open pools for storing spent fuel. Damn stupid design idea to put an open pool 100 feet above ground level, in an earthquake prone country.

France has offered to take all the spent fuel from the Fukushima NPP.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japan to speed up Fukushima nuclear plant cleanup After reading this article, then reading the comments, I've been more informed by JT readers!!!

Zichi, thank you for your time and research!, looking into both sides of ( Pro and Anti nuclear information ) I hope Japan Today can learn from your style. Keep up the good work.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )


After France took all spent fuel from Fukushima, then Where to would go? These would go to East Siberia in Russia, wouldn't they? Russia always has been accepting spent fuels for many decades in the past. There are the biggest open dump sites somewhere in East Siberia. This is a final destination of France's spent fuel

2 ( +2 / -0 )


Since I live in Japan, and I love living here, I'm not into the "Japan bashing thing

No, from what I know of you, you are too mature for that, and your love of the country is obvious. I share your condemnation of the unsafe practices of TEPCO and any other organizations that betray the public trust.

I can see I'm not alone in thanking you. I second Mr. Hayward's sentiments above.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

the fuel rods, now covered only by water and a white plastic tarp

Not a BLUE tarp?

Work began in April to raise what amounts to a giant tent over the building to keep radioactive dust from scattering during the transport of the fuel rods.

Tents , typhoons, bad combination.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

That could happen, eventually, but I believe before they could do that, would require tunnelling under the reactors first, to install a thick bed of concrete and steel and install a system of instrumentation and measurement. Chernobyl isn't next to the sea.

I see. It's a pity that it cannot be solved quickly but I guess (know) there must be a large number of qualified people who have explored every possible option. Just hope they can clean up sooner than later, even if sooner is not as fast as what we'd prefer.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Crackkk....drip drip drip.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

the fuel rods, now covered only by water and a white plastic tarp

What, no bungee cord?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is the TEPCO link showing the steel cover on the No4 spent fuel pool.

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From my understanding of what various experts have said, the technology to remove the rods from the pool of building #4 does not presently exist. Engineers have probably drawn up some plan on paper, but they won't know if it will work until they actually build the structures. Along the way, they could well run into all kinds of problems that delay their efforts. Hosono is just blowing more wind.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

It's shocking to hear that they decide to pick up the pace 15months after the earthquake...

TEPCO, y u so stupid?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Forget about training the next generation of human workers, for this is task for robots.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

'a task'

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I suppose it's good if they can address the problems that are doable more quickly than they had planned, even though there are other problems they can't touch now at all. The less of this stuff sitting around the better.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Would radiation affect robots like ASIMO... if not then why not create a special unit with ASIMO robots to work in the places too dangerous for humans? Or have I seen too many films?

0 ( +0 / -0 )


radiation kills robots as well as carbon based creatures. Last year, a Qunince robot entered the 5th floor of the No2 reactor, which has radiation at 800 milliisieverts/h and died. The special probe they used to look inside the No2 containmnet vessel can only be used for a certain number of minutes before it too dies. Electronics can't cope with high levels of radiation.

Asimo is great at performing but wasn't built to actually do anything. The Quince robots are more useful.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Would radiation affect robots like ASIMO

It fires the circuitry.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

the horrible part is that if "something" does happen again, if the fuel rods have another meltdown, all of the cleanup work would be done in vain. That huge swath of land and sea would be re poluted. Not to mention the possibilty of China syndrome (This would be the opposite direction) and a meltdown heading to an extremely close water table, leading to further explosions and spreading of highly and semi radioactive garbage all over eastern japan...

Chernobyl is destined for something similar as apparently there is active red-hot fuel sitting just above natrually collected groundwater...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the obvious solution to disposal of the rods is to break each rod into 100 cm pieces, encase them in concrete "sarcophoguses", then deposit them in the ocean near a mid-Pacific ridge. By the time tectonic plate activity moves them close to shore again, millions of years would have passed and the half, quarter, and eighth-life of the fuel would have come and gone.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As zichi notes, information is often easy to find, but it is often difficult to decipher and convert to language most people understand. When dioxins and furans became important to understand, few people had a clue about them, so one of the lessons of Fukushima is how few people really understand the magnitude of the events surrounding them. As for bashing Japan or the industry, the more powerful attack is civil truth without pointing fingers. This method is nearly unimpeachable, and zichi should recognize he has a world-wide audience greatly appreciating his information and objective assessment of this unfolding event. Many in the US are grasping the importance of this experience, and like our wars, the further the public is kept from the fray the less concerned they are about the difficulty of resolving complex problems. Zichi, you have a fan in Kansas City.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

George Baggett,

I have a very personal reason for commenting on the nuclear disaster. My aging parents live in Florida, my children, grandchildren and other family live in Britain.

Soon after the 3/11 disaster the foreign headlines, especially in America, starting becoming so bad I had my mother phoning every day. You know the sort of thing, Japan destroyed by earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster. Millions will die or get cancer. I felt I needed to keep my family informed of the real situation, and for awhile became a sort of blog,and on other American forums.On this forum too which is the only place I still make comments.

I'm against the use of nuclear energy especially in an earthquake prone country like Japan, but I avoid all the extreme blogs which state millions will die of cancer and I also avoid the ones which state " radiation is over rated" and there's no problem.

I try to look at the facts and present them in a way everyone can understand. There are many times when there's a conflict of info so I'll state both. People really need to decide for themselves what is true, what is possible and what is most unlikely. 

When TEPCO gets it right I praise them. When they get it wrong, I criticize them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi provides the important information and excellent explanations. And Japan Today provides the forum. My hat is off to both.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


I work for a multinational and continuously see the need to be correct in all comments. Hyperbole works against the message. As for reactions, it is important to note the direction being taken in Germany away from nuclear power and in favor of wind and solar. If possible, I'd recommend viewing Amory Lovins lecture some time back about energy issues shown on This Week in Ted:

He is showing a path that is not confrontational and yet equates those who invest in nuclear, coal and oil as those who are investing in a company to be equated to a typewriter manufacturer. I've written before that generations from now will be scratching their heads as they note we used up tremendous amounts of uranium, created numerous sacrifice zones like at Hanford, have millions of tons of hot waste for our great grandchildren to manage, and all to boil water.

Good to make your acquaintance.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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