Removal of fuel at Fukushima's melted nuclear reactor begins

Los Angeles Times

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.

Fukushima: removal of nuclear fuel rods from damaged reactor building begins

Guardian Energy

Workers at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have begun removing fuel rods from a storage pool near one of the three reactors that suffered meltdowns eight years ago. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said on Monday that work had begun to remove the first of 566 used and unused fuel assemblies in reactor building No 3. The measure marks a milestone in efforts to decommission the plant, although the more critical removal of melted fuel from inside three damaged reactors will prove far more difficult. The fuel rods stored in unit No 3's cooling pool were not damaged in the 2011 disaster, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami knocked out Fukushima Daiichi's backup power supply and triggered the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, 25 years earlier. Tepco said the operation to remove the fuel rods, which are in uncovered pools, would take two years, adding that transferring them to safer ground would better protect them in the event of another catastrophic earthquake.

Inside the heart of Fukushima's deadly reactor

Daily Mail

These stark images showing the heart of the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone reveal the devastation inside its destroyed reactor. The scenes were captured by a camera attached to a 50ft rod and inserted into reactor 2 at the doomed Japanese power plant, on the country's north east coast. Footage shows melted nuclear fuel attached to the pillars, walls and ceiling, as well as puddles of coolant, and debris piled up 16 to 27ins thick on the ground. Analysis of the images by the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning said the spread of debris was suggestive of several holes in the reactor floor. It is seven years since the disaster was unleashed by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

Toshiba unveils robot to probe melted Fukushima nuclear...

Daily Mail

Toshiba unveiled a remote-controlled robot with tongs on Monday that it hopes will be able to probe the inside of one of the three damaged reactors at Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant and grip chunks of highly radioactive melted fuel. The device is designed to slide down an extendable 11-meter (36-foot) long pipe and touch melted fuel inside the Unit 2 reactor's primary containment vessel. The reactor was built by Toshiba and GE. An earlier probe carrying a camera captured images of pieces of melted fuel in the reactor last year, and robotic probes in the two other reactors have detected traces of damaged fuel, but the exact location, contents and other details remain largely unknown. Toshiba unveiled the device carrying tongs that comes out of a long telescopic pipe for an internal probe in one of three damaged reactor chambers at Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant - this time to touch chunks of melted fuel Toshiba's energy systems unit said experiments with the new probe planned in February are key to determining the proper equipment and technologies needed to remove the fuel debris, the most challenging part of the decommissioning process expected to take decades.

Extremely deadly radiation reading, huge hole found in grate under Fukushima No. 1 reactor vessel

The Japan Times

The radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor 2 at the crippledFukushima No. 1 power plant has reached a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the triple core meltdown in March 2011, oTokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. said Thursday. The reading means a person could die from even brief exposure, highlighting the difficulties ahead as the government and Tepco grope their way toward dismantling all three reactors that suffered core meltdowns in the March 2011 disaster. Tepco also announced that, based on image analysis, it has discovered a 2-meter hole in the metal grating beneath the pressure vessel inside reactor 2's containment vessel, and discovered a portion of it is warped. The hole could have been caused by melted fuel penetrating the vessel after the March 11, 2011 mega-quake and massive tsunami triggered a station blackout that crippled the plant's ability to keep the reactors cool. The new radiation level, described by some experts as "unimaginable," far exceeds 73 sieverts per hour, the previously highest radiation reading monitored in the interior of the reactor.