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TEPCO to start removing fuel at Fukushima’s No. 3 reactor via The Asahi Shimbun

The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will start removing nuclear fuel from the No. 3 reactor as early as next week through equipment controlled remotely due to high radiation levels inside the building.

This will mark Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s first attempt to remove spent fuel from one of the three reactors that experienced a meltdown during the 2011 nuclear accident.

All spent fuel has already been removed from the No. 4 reactor.

TEPCO workers will use remote control to remove nuclear fuel assemblies kept in the pool on the upper floors of the No. 3 reactor building.

[…]

The 566 nuclear fuel assemblies in the storage pool will be removed under a plan expected to take two years to complete.

TEPCO wants to remove the assemblies as quickly as possible owing to concerns that another major earthquake or tsunami could further damage the reactor building and equipment. The No. 3 reactor will also serve as a test case for eventually removing spent nuclear fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor buildings.

Under the plan, workers will be stationed in a control room about 500 meters from the reactor building and use remote control equipment while observing the process through monitors.

Each nuclear fuel assembly will be lifted and transferred to a special transport container that can hold up to seven such assemblies in water. The container will then be carried out of the reactor building by crane, which will then lower the container outside of the building to a trailer about 30 meters below at ground level.

[…]

While the No. 2 reactor building did not suffer major structural damage, large amounts of radioactive materials are believed to be trapped inside the building, meaning radiation levels are also very high there.
The level at the top floor is so high that any worker remaining there for one hour would quickly exceed the annual radiation exposure level.

After decontamination, the upper part of the No. 2 reactor building will have to be taken apart to remove the spent fuel. However, this poses the major problem of preventing the spewing of radioactive materials during that process.

“To be honest, it will be difficult to say that no problems will emerge that will force a change in plans,” said Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

(This article was written by Hiroshi Ishizuka and Chikako Kawahara.)

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