This image released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) shows the operation floor above a cooling pool in the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Monday. Photo: TEPCO via AP
national

Removal of fuel in pool at Fukushima's melted No. 3 reactor begins

20 Comments
By Mari Yamaguchi

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

Tokyo Electric Power Co said Monday that workers started removing the first of 566 used and unused fuel units stored in the pool at the No. 3 reactor. The fuel units in the pool located high up in reactor buildings are intact despite the disaster, but the pools are not enclosed, so removing the units to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major quake.

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

Removing fuel units from the cooling pools comes ahead of the real challenge of removing melted fuel from inside the reactors, but details of how that might be done are still largely unknown. 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, underscoring the difficulties that remain.

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 meters away because of still-high radiation levels inside the reactor building that houses the pool.

About an hour after the work began Monday, the first fuel unit was safely stored inside the cask, TEPCO said.

"I believe everything is going well so far," plant chief Tomohiko Isogai told NHK television from Fukushima. "We will watch the progress at the site as we put safety first. Our goal is not to rush the process but to carefully proceed with the decommissioning work."

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 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami occurred.

Robotic probes have photographed and detected traces of damaged nuclear fuel in the three reactors that had meltdowns, but the exact location and other details of the melted fuel are largely unknown. 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.

In February, a remote-controlled robot with tongs removed pebbles of nuclear debris from the No. 2 reactor but was unable to remove larger chunks, indicating a robot would need to be developed that can break the chunks into smaller pieces. Toshiba Corp's energy systems unit, which developed the robot, said the findings were key to determining the proper equipment and technologies needed to remove the melted fuel, the most challenging part of the decommissioning expected to take decades.

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.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


20 Comments
Login to comment

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

What about the truck driver?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It's a long way to complete but it is still a good news. Be safe, everyone at the work!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

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

Bloody nora, that's a lot of geigers.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Gogogo, my first thought as well!

Just a thought, who is paying for all this cleanup work? The company that has taken the profits all these years?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

An operation never untaken before by any company. The radiation is too high for workers to be present on site. Toshiba nuclear engineers who have been practicing their drills for many months will carry out the removal of the spent fuel by remote control in a center about 500 meters from the reactor. A container is lowered into the spend fuel pool and using the new overhead crane the spent fuel will be loaded into the container. Each container only holds 7 fuel rods and each container will take weeks. Then the container will be lifted out of the pool and lowered to a truck on the ground which will take them to the common cooling pool.

The entire operation will take more than two years. TEPCO fears what will happen if there were another powerful earthquake and tsunami.

There are damaged and bend fuel rods from the explosions and the building collapsing into the cooling pool.

TEPCO have discovered that the No1 reactor cover was dislodged by the explosion and is releasing high levels of radiation. TEPCO does not have a plan ready for dealing with that reactor or the removal of the spent fuel.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I think the costs of the nuclear disaster are up to about ¥20 trillion with most of that being paid by the taxpayer. The eventual cost, according to one Japanese think tank, will be ¥80 trillion.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Just a thought, who is paying for all this cleanup work? 

We, the taxpayers of Japan! Our taxes were also increased to fund this, so there is plenty of room for people to skim off the top, the middle and every where else!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

And there are people who want to open up more reactors in Japan!!!!!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Yes, no more nukes in dangerous Japan. Abe sorry, get real!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

o removing the units to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major quake.

No. The used and new fuel in the pool pose little if any risk in case of another major quake.

What about the truck driver?

What about him? The high radiation levels are in the building, not from the used fuel. Once in the casks, the fuel rods pose no significant radiation risk.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

I’m afraid this area of Japan will be uninhabited for another 20+ years. The atomic testing done by the UK & US In the Christmas Island chain has left that area uninhabitable for over 50 years and its still remains so with no determined date for future habitation. There remains so many questions concerning containment and the harnessing & safe use of Nuclear Energy !

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Let’s all hope and pray they have got their crap together and know what they are doing. One mishap could very easily cause a ‘China Syndrome’ scenario. Yeah, Chine Syndrome is science fiction, but one slip up removing these melted rods could very easily make it science fact. Normal removal and storage prosecutes do not apply to these rods due to their irregular shapes. They will have be stored in mobile cooking tanks until they reach their final resting place. By the way, has TEOCO and the J-Gov sorted out a permanent storage facility for these melted rods? That’s question is sarcasm because I know they haven’t. The world watches with baited breath.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

One mishap could very easily cause a ‘China Syndrome’ scenario. Yeah, Chine Syndrome is science fiction, but one slip up removing these melted rods could very easily make it science fact.

No, it couldn't. There was no science facts behind the 'China Syndrome' and the science facts behind nuclear criticality make it impossible for the melted rods to go critical. The only hazards are radiation (hence the remote operation and underwater) and contamination if a rod were drop (hence sealed building and underwater).

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

About 25% of the fuel rods in the pool are unused ones with some containing plutonium.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

About 25% of the fuel rods in the pool are unused ones with some containing plutonium.

And all the used fuel rods contain plutonium. So what?

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Massively risky. Any number of issues could add to the already numerous catastrophes that have happened and are continuing at Dai Ichi. Yet, the fuel can’t be left there. To all the incredible people in amongst it, risking everything, here’s to you being safe and well looked after. I still think of the Hyper Rescue crews who raced to the scene on March 18 from Tokyo, when they stopped some 10kms away, all got out of their emergency vehicles, had a meeting amongst the debris strewn across a tsunami devastated landscape, then all bowed, got in their vehicles and robe into hells gate to start pumping in water. Humbling. And its the same for those still there, working, unsung heroes. Thank you.

https://ideas.ted.com/lessons-in-courage-from-a-team-of-japanese-firefighters/

Use thorium, NOT uranium based nuclear power!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Humans will destroy this Wonderful Planet with their stupidity!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

englisc aspyrgendApr. 15  06:09 pm JST

Just a thought, who is paying for all this cleanup work? The company that has taken the profits all these years?

Taxpayers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident: Lessons Learned for Spent Fuel Storage

https://www.nap.edu/read/21874/chapter/5

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In a 2011 secret report from the General Director of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency informing the Kan government of dire consequences of the nuclear disaster including the vacation of Tokyo if the situation worsened helped persuade the government that the evacuation within the 30km was needed.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites