The decades-long decommissioning process at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant is about to take what Tokyo Electric Power Co. says is "an important step," as the utility starts removing fuel rod assemblies from the spent fuel pool high up in reactor building 4 sometime this month.

Moving the massive amount of radioactive fuel assemblies out of the shattered building is significant because it will allow Tepco to monitor the fuel much more easily at another pool in an undamaged facility, experts say.

Meanwhile, they stress the task must be handled very carefully to avoid dropping and damaging the assemblies.