Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday it will start removing nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pool of the reactor 4 building at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant from Monday.
"Full-scale removal (from the accident-stricken unit) is a very important process in moving ahead with the plant's decommissioning," Tepco spokesman Masayuki Ono told a press conference, adding that the experience will be useful in dealing with the three other units that were damaged in the 2011 nuclear crisis.
The unit 4 spent fuel pool contains 1,331 spent fuel assemblies and 202 unused ones. Workers will begin with the removal of unused fuel assemblies, which are easier to handle.
The work Monday will begin with the placement of a transportation container inside the spent fuel pool. Workers will then use a crane to take each fuel assembly out of the storage rack and put it into the container.
Once the container is filled with 22 fuel assemblies, it will be put on a trailer and taken to another pool in a different building about 100 meters away, which is expected to provide more stable conditions for keeping the fuel cool.
It is expected to take about two days to fill the container with fuel assemblies, and about a week until the container is transported to the other pool, Ono said.
Reactor 4 avoided a reactor meltdown, unlike the units 1 to 3, as all of its fuel was stored in the spent fuel pool due to the reactor undergoing periodic maintenance work at that time.
But the building housing the reactor was severely damaged by a hydrogen explosion, raising concern about the continued storage of the more than 1,000 fuel assemblies in the spent fuel tank.
Tepco plans to finish the fuel removal work at unit 4 by the end of next year.