Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fukushima operator to start fuel-rod removal


TOKYO : Japanese nuclear engineers were Monday preparing to move uranium and plutonium fuel rods at Fukushima, their most difficult and dangerous task since runaway reactors were brought under control two years ago.
Operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) is expected to begin the precarious operation later in the day, a tricky but essential step in the plant’s decades-long decommissioning plan. It follows months of setbacks and glitches that have stoked widespread criticism of the utility’s handling of the crisis, the worst nuclear accident in a generation.

The work starting Monday pales in comparison with the much more complex task that awaits engineers, who will have to remove the misshapen cores of three reactors that went into meltdown.
More than 1,500 rods must be pulled out of the storage pool where they were being kept when a tsunami smashed into Fukushima in March 2011.

Over the course of two days, the company said it expects to remove 22 rods, with the entire operation scheduled to run for more than a year.

A huge crane with a remotely controlled grabber will be lowered into the pool and hook onto the rods, placing them inside a fully immersed cask.
The 91-tonne cask will then be hauled from the pool - to be loaded onto a trailer and taken to a different storage pool about 100 metres (yards) away.

Experts have warned that slip-ups could quickly cause the situation to deteriorate. Even minor mishaps will create considerable delays to the already long and complicated decommissioning.

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