A submersible robot has spotted what representatives from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) say is likely missing melted nuclear fuel from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the wake of a magnitude 9 earthquake, the power plant was disastrously taken off-line. The area remains contaminated so an unmanned robot nicknamed "Little Sunfish" was sent below water to survey the flooded parts of plant and hunt for the melted nuclear fuel. Tepco spokesman Takahiro Kimoto told the Japan Times that video taken by the robot over three days shows clumps of what is likely to be melted fuel.
TOKYO – Images captured by an underwater robot showed massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. The robot found large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers as thick as 3 feet on the bottom inside of a main structure called the pedestal that sits underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima's Unit 3 reactor, said the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. On Friday, the robot spotted suspected debris of melted fuel for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns and destroyed the plant. The three-day probe of Unit 3 ended Saturday. Locating and analyzing the fuel debris and damage in each of the plant's three wrecked reactors is crucial for decommissioning the plant. The search for melted fuel in the two other reactors has so far been unsuccessful because of damage and extremely high radiation levels.
The operator of the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant began removing fuel Monday from a cooling pool at one of three reactors that melted down in the 2011 disaster, a milestone in what will be a decades-long process to decommission the facility. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said 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, but the pools are not enclosed, so removing the units to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major earthquake similar to the one that caused the 2011 tsunami. TEPCO says the removal at Unit 3 will 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 meltdowns, underscoring the difficulties that remain.
This image captured by an underwater robot provided by International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning on Saturday, July 22, 2017 shows massive deposits believed to be melted nuclear fuel covering the floor of a damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Okuma town, northeastern Japan. The robot found large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers as thick as 1 meter (3 feet) on the bottom inside of a main structure called the pedestal that sits underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima's Unit 3 reactor, said the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning via AP) The Associated Press