A new and dangerous phase in the cleanup from the Fukushima disaster began today. As the BBC reported:
Workers at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant have begun removing fuel rods from a storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor building.
The delicate operation is seen as a necessary step in stabilising the site.
It will take about two days to remove the first 22 fuel rod assemblies, plant operator Tepco says.
Overall, more than 1,500 assemblies must be be removed in what correspondents describe as a risky and dangerous operation set to take a year.
Japanese nuclear regulatory authorities are concerned about the removal process. According to the BBC:
Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has warned that rubble from the blast in the pool could pose a problem, Kyodo news agency reported.
“The fuel has to be handled very carefully. There is a need to make sure that a fuel assembly is not pulled out (from the fuel rack) by force when it gets stuck because of the rubble,” Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying.
According to the BBC, the spent fuel rods will be transferred to a fuel pool that is more stable and has an intact cooling system.
Here’s a link to the BBC piece: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24958048