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TEPCO gives first glimpse of fuel rod removal


The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant Tuesday offered the first glimpse of the operation to remove its fuel rods, the most dangerous job since the runaway reactors were brought under control two years ago.

Video footage supplied by the company showed Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) workers with protective suits inside a reactor building as a crane lowered a huge metal cask into a storage pool filled with uranium and plutonium rods.

The nuclear fuel rods are bundled together in assemblies which must be pulled out of the storage pool where they were being kept when a tsunami smashed into Fukushima in March 2011. There are more than 1,500 such assemblies in the pool.

Removal of the fuel rods is a tricky but essential step in the decommissioning of the complex, which is expected to take decades.

On Monday, the company said it expects to remove 22 assemblies over two days, with the entire operation scheduled to run for more than a year.

The huge crane, with a remote-controlled grabber, is hooked onto the assemblies, placing them inside the fully immersed cask.

The 91-ton cask will then be hauled from the pool to be loaded onto a trailer and taken to a different storage pool about 100 meters away

TEPCO said the work was on schedule with the 22 assemblies expected to be placed inside the cask by Tuesday evening.

The reactor which the pool serves -- No. 4 -- was not in operation on March 11, 2011, when a massive earthquake triggered a killer tsunami that swept the Fukushima nuclear plant, triggering meltdown and explosions.

But the pool was heavily damaged and left at the mercy of earthquakes, storms or another tsunami.

The fuel assemblies needed to be kept in a more stable facility, but experts have warned that slip-ups in the removal operation could trigger a rapid deterioration in the situation.

TEPCO's efforts to contain the crisis have faced a string of setbacks and mechanical glitches which stoked widespread criticism of its handling of the worst nuclear accident in a generation.

The work that began Monday pales in comparison with the much more complex task that awaits engineers, who will have to remove the misshapen cores of three other reactors that went into meltdown.

© (c) 2013 AFP

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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TEPCO at the helm of a massive "ufo catcher" sounds like something that ought to belong in a video arcade, not a precarious nuclear plant.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I really do hope the entire operation goes without a hitch.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

TEPCO takes measures assuming various problems. But how do you deal with multiple troubles at the same time? But according to TEPCO no such things are supposed to happen. At least it's one big step toward decommissioning.

5 ( +5 / -0 )


0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hope this team isn't lead by Homer Simpson ...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Tepco is in control! Sounds like a good opportunity to learn a good prayer...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Just 65 more years to go and they will be all finished!!! that is of course is TEPCO does its job correctly and doesnt mess up. HA! that would be a good laugh. TEPCO not messing anything up. The sad thing is, I am not exaggerating. Look it up yourself. They are STILL decomishining Chernobyl and that has been going smoothly.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I pray to Yorozu no kamisama, one kamisama should take responsibility for each rod. This is not a joke.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Simple... evacuation would have been completed long ago.....

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Steady as she goes.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

At this point, they're doing the easy part.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I sincerely hope TEPCO can pull off this easier part and then figure out what to do with the semi melted assemblies in the other two reactors including that which melted through the containment buildings into the ground. This will be the most important part of preventing future problems with that site and is literally a matter of life and death to millions of people.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Lets just hope there is no earthquake while they lower these things down from the building to the truck. Having the spent fuel pool on the top floor has always been a design flaw of the Mark 1 reactor.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As WilliB says, if they drop the 90-ton flask onto the truck 100 feet below, say in a violent earthquake jolt, let's hope they have plenty of mattresses on the flatbed.

One interesting snippet I read was that although they have lifted off all the larger broken concrete chunks and steel bits from the tops of the fuel racks, quite a lot of smaller chunks have probably worked their way down the sides of the rod assemblies, which is why they have to pull up centimeter by centimeter, hoping that nothing snags.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hope the best for the workers put in risk treir own life's to do this operation goes without any danger!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Is the cask being lifted on a single hook? I seem to remember reading that they will use support wires in addition... or was that for the rubble?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I understand some of the casks may be damaged and leaky. If a cask is lifted up and is very leaky the contents will be exposed to air and the temperature will start to increase. How fast will the temperature increase?, how much leeway time is there to get it back into water? What if the cask comes partway up and gets stuck, but they can't get it back down either? Worry.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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