How Japan will remove nuclear fuel rods from damaged reactor
Experts say no one has ever attempted such a procedure before and that a mistake could be disastrous
The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is soon to begin the delicate and perilous process of removing 1,534 nuclear fuel rods from a storage pool at the site.
In the coming days it will begin a dry run of the procedure at the No. 4 reactor, which experts have warned carries grave risks. The operator had been scheduled to start the actual removal on Friday, but the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organisation this week insisted that Tokyo Electric Power Co. carry out a test to ensure that every part of its plan goes smoothly, delaying the operation for some two weeks.
The authorities’ insistence on additional checks suggests there are serious concerns about the ability of the utility to handle the aftermath of the second-worst nuclear accident in history. Tepco’s very public failures in the 32 months since the plant was devastated by the magnitude-9 earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered have shaken confidence in Japan’s nuclear industry, both here and around the world. (Excerpt)