IAEA starts review at Fukushima

Kyodo

A team of experts formed by the International Atomic Energy Agency began Monday reviewing Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s ongoing efforts to scrap the crippled reactors at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The team will focus on the management of the radioactive water buildup at the site and fuel-removal work that has just started at a pool inside the damaged reactor 4 building, team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo told a press conference in Tokyo.

“The removal of the spent fuel is an essential activity toward decommissioning. Our idea is to review the full process that Tepco has developed for the purpose and all the precautions adopted to develop these activities in a safe way,” the director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology said.

On Nov. 18, Tepco started a delicate mission to remove over 1,000 fuel assemblies from the spent fuel pool at reactor 4, nearly three years after the plant suffered meltdowns and hydrogen explosions in the early days of the nuclear crisis.

During the work through Friday, workers finished transferring the first batch of fuel rod assemblies, all unused ones, from the unit 4 spent fuel pool to another building with more stable storage conditions.

After the press conference, Lentijo held a meeting with officials of the government and Tepco and told them the successful commencement of the fuel removal was “promising” for subsequent activities, including the same operation that needs to be undertaken in three other crippled units.

The IAEA team, consisting of 19 members, will issue a preliminary report of its main findings at the end of the mission on Dec. 4, and a final version of the report in around two months’ time.

It is the second time that Japan has accepted an IAEA review mission on work toward decommissioning the reactors 1 to 4 at the Fukushima plant. The previous mission was carried out in April.