Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Plant Begins Fuel Rod Removal
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Workers at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant started removing fuel rods from a storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor building.
The delicate operation is seen as a necessary step in stabilising the site.
It will take more than two days to remove the first 22 fuel rods from the pond, plant operator Tepco says.
Overall, more than 1,500 rods must be be removed in what correspondents describe as a risky and dangerous operation expected to take a year, BBC reported.
Experts say hydrogen explosions after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 have made the current storage facility vulnerable to further tremors.
The fuel rods are four-metre long tubes containing pellets of uranium fuel, and the fear is that some may have been damaged during the disaster.
When the tsunami struck, water knocked out cooling systems to three of Fukushima's reactors, which went into a state of partial meltdown.
Unit 4 was undergoing maintenance, so all of its fuel rods were being stored. But a build-up of hydrogen triggered an explosion in Unit 4, damaging its structure.
The removal process, which has been preceded by months of repair work and planning, began on Monday afternoon.
"At 15:18 (0618 GMT), we started to pull up the first fuel assembly with a crane," a spokesman for Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company) said.
A recently-installed crane is being lowered into the pool and hooked onto the rods to place them inside a cask.