15:59 GMT +319 May 2019
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    An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Japanese town of Futaba, Fukushima prefecture on March 12, 2011. (File)

    TEPCO Begins Removal of Nuclear Fuel Rods From Fukushima Power Plant - Reports

    © AFP 2019 / JIJI PRESS
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    TOKYO (Sputnik) - Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, started making the first ever attempts to remove fuel from storage pools at three units that suffered severe meltdowns during the accident, NHK broadcaster reported on Monday.

    On Monday, the company intends to remove a total of 52 unused fuel rods from a storage pool inside Unit 3, which also stores 514 unused rods, using remotely controlled equipment, the NHK broadcaster reported.

    The removed fuel rods are set to be placed into special containers and transported to another storage pool on the site.

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    Before the beginning of the operation, TEPCO cleared Unit 3 of the debris that was produced by a hydrogen-air explosion in 2011. Small pieces of debris were found in the storage pool itself but the company said that the fuel assemblies were unharmed, the broadcaster added.

    The operation began nearly four and a half years later than initially planned, according to the broadcaster.

    The Kyodo news agency reported that the work would continue in June after the first seven fuel assemblies that would be removed from the storage pool had been checked.

    The fuel removal operation in Unit 3 is expected to be completed in 2020, while Units 1 and 2 are set to be cleared of fuel in 2023. There an estimated 1,573 fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP.

    The accident at the power plant was triggered by a 46-feet tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 following a 9.0-magnitude offshore earthquake. The meltdown at three out of four units and hydrogen-air explosions, which were provoked by cooling systems failure, led to the leakage of radioactive materials and the shutdown of the plant.

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    Tags:
    nuclear fuel, Fukushima nuclear power plant, TEPCO, Japan
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