National

Nuclear fuel debris removal at Fukushima plant could start with No. 2 reactor

JIJI

A government-backed organization in charge of supporting the decommissioning of nuclear plants is considering proposing the removal of melted nuclear fuel debris beginning with the No. 2 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, officials said Thursday.

Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDF) believes that the No. 2 unit is the most suitable for melted fuel removal work among the three crippled reactors based on the results of its investigation into radiation levels at the reactors and the conditions inside them.

In January 2018, Tepco confirmed the presence of deposits of melted nuclear fuel debris inside the No. 2 reactor containment vessel of the plant in Fukushima that was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In February this year, the company made physical contact with the deposits, making much more progress in investigating the No. 2 reactor than the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors.

Tepco plans to further investigate the inside of the No. 2 reactor by the end of March next year and aims to collect sample debris.

According to a summary of a strategic plan on decommissioning that was released by NDF, a robot arm is expected to be inserted into the reactor containment vessel in order to remove melted fuel little by little.

Removed debris is due to be placed in a special container and transferred to a storage facility within the plant.

NDF plans to submit its proposals, including the strategic decommissioning plan, to the government around autumn this year.

After receiving the proposals, the government plans to determine the method of debris removal by the end of March next year. It aims to start debris removal in 2021.