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Fuel removal delayed at No.1

October 30, 2014

TEPCO to postpone nuclear fuel removal at Fukushima No. 1 reactor



A series of delays will push back by years the start of operations to remove spent and melted nuclear fuel from the No. 1 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, sources said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the central government were expected to announce the new schedule at an Oct. 30 meeting of the team in charge of handling the decommissioning process and the radioactive water accumulating at the plant.

Under the original plan, TEPCO was to start removing spent fuel from the No. 1 reactor building in fiscal 2017 and begin lifting out the melted fuel as early as fiscal 2020.

Under the new schedule, spent fuel removal will start in fiscal 2019, while the melted fuel operations will begin in fiscal 2025, according to the sources.

Shortly after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima plant, nuclear fuel in the No. 1 reactor melted and an explosion rocked the building.

Currently, 392 fuel assemblies remain in the spent fuel pool in the damaged reactor building.

TEPCO earlier this month began dismantling the canopy that was installed over the No. 1 reactor building to prevent the escape of radioactive materials.

But work on the canopy was delayed. TEPCO is now unable to begin full-scale work on dismantling the canopy until March 2015 because other related operations must be completed first, the sources said.

That delay, in turn, will push back the scheduled completion of debris removal work around the No. 1 reactor building to at least fiscal 2016.

The debris stands in the way of installing additional devices, such as cranes, to remove the nuclear fuel.

TEPCO and the government also intend to review plans to remove the nuclear fuel at the No. 2 reactor building.

The utility is currently surveying the inside of the No. 2 reactor building, but high radiation levels have hindered progress of the investigation.

Debris removal work has been suspended at the other damaged reactor, No. 3, since August, when some equipment accidently fell into the fuel storage pool.

The No. 4 reactor was not operating during the earthquake and tsunami. The removal of spent nuclear fuel from the No. 4 reactor building is expected to be completed by the end of the year as scheduled.

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