PROJECT | Staff Reporter, Japan

TEPCO starts removing fuel from Unit 3 of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

The removal of all 566 fuel assemblies is expected to finish in March 2021.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) started the removal of fuel from the Unit 3 spent fuel pool at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station as part of its ongoing decommissioning, an announcement revealed.

TEPCO moved the first fuel assembly from the rack to a storage container, which is part of the spent fuel pool, in the morning and proceeded to place the fourth fuel assembly in the container in the afternoon. “All procedures were performed remotely and the process was completed safely without any issues,” the company said.

The plan is to fill the container with seven fuel assemblies, seal the container with a lid and then remove the container from the pool to the ground level before placing another lid on top. The container will then be transported by trailer to a common on-site pool for fuel assemblies.

The Unit 3 pool holds 514 spent-fuel assemblies and 52 unused-fuel assemblies. The removal of all 566 fuel assemblies is expected to finish in March 2021.

Unit 3 was in operation at the time of the accident on 11 March 2011. It lost all power and its reactor could not be cooled due to melted fuel. A large amount of hydrogen gas was generated, resulting in a hydrogen explosion that blew away the upper part of the reactor building, leaving rubble scattered about on the top floor of the building.

“The early stage of the recovery work involved removing large pieces of the rubble, followed by decontamination procedures and construction of a radiation shield. Later, a dome-shaped roof cover, fuel-handling machine and crane were all installed on the top of the Unit 3 reactor building,” TEPCO said.

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