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Climbing without a map: Japan’s nuclear clean-up has no end in sight via Nasdaq

By Sakura Murakami and Aaron Sheldrick

TOKYO, March 12 (Reuters) – For one minute last week, workers at the Fukushima nuclear station fell silent to mark the 10-year anniversary of a natural disaster that triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Then they went back to work tearing down the reactors melted down in the days after a tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The job ranks as the most expensive and dangerous nuclear clean-up ever attempted. A decade in, an army of engineers, scientists and 5,000 workers are still mapping out a project many expect will not be completed in their lifetime.

Naoaki Okuzumi, the head of research at Japan’s lead research institute on decommissioning, compares the work ahead to climbing a mountain range – without a map.

[…]

Okuzumi and others need to find a way to remove and safely store 880 tonnes of highly radioactive uranium fuel along with a larger mass of concrete and metal into which fuel melted a decade ago during the accident.

The robotic tools to do the job don’t yet exist. There is no plan for where to put the radioactive material when it is removed.

Japan’s government says the job could run 40 years. Outside experts say it could take twice as long, pushing completion near the close of the century.

[…]

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