The operator of the crashed Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan began today to remove spent fuel and stored it inside one of the three damaged reactors of the plant, which is a new step towards its dismantling.
The operation is carried out remotely inside unit 3 of the plant, and is the first time that nuclear fuel is removed from one of the reactors badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, reported in a statement Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the owner of the plant.
This phase of the dismantling work has been delayed more than four years from the date initially foreseen by TEPCO, due to the failures suffered by the electronic and robotic devices used when exposed to extreme levels of radiation and that would be fatal for human workers.
In particular, TEPCO plans to remove today seven of the 566 bars of uranium dioxide and MOX (a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxide) spent or unused stored in cooling pools inside the building of unit 3, and transfer them to other pools located in the facilities of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
The operator plans to complete the withdrawal of the fuel rods from unit 3 by March 2021, while in the other two damaged units they subtract a thousand bars more than TEPCO plans to withdraw from 2023.
Apart from these bars, the presence of molten remnants of atomic fuel has been detected in the bottom of the containment vessel of reactors 1, 2 and 3, according to the images captured by several remote devices introduced by TEPCO.
This highly radioactive waste is the result of the partial merger of the units during the 2011 nuclear catastrophe, and they present technical difficulties for their removal much greater than the fuel rods.
Reactors 1, 2 and 3 underwent partial mergers of their cores after running out of power due to the natural disaster that occurred almost 8 years ago.
TEPCO has already completed the withdrawal of fuel stored in reactor 4 of the plant, where the damages were lower than in the other units.
The atomic crisis of Fukushima is considered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl (Ukraine) in 1986.