The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday they may be able to start removing the melted fuel inside the crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 complex around 18 months earlier than initially planned, although this action would still be years away.

The process would reportedly begin with the removal of fuel assemblies from the outside-reactor spent-fuel pools of units 1 to 4, the latter of which was widely reported to have been exposed to the atmosphere when the building housing the reactor was blown up in a hydrogen explosion involving an adjacent reactor that suffered a meltdown.

According to a revised plan to decommission four reactors at the six-reactor complex, the extremely challenging task of removing melted fuel from reactors 1, 2, and 3, which suffered the core meltdowns, and from the exposed spent-fuel pool of unit 4 could start within the first half of fiscal 2020 if the efficiency of preparation work is improved.