Workers at the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant have started removing fuel rods from the plant’s reactor 4, the only one that didn’t melt down after the 2011 earthquake.
The highly dangerous procedure is the first step towards full decommissioning and clean-up of the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which is foreseen to take decades.
Unit 4 was the only reactor that was off-line during the tragic 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, as it was undergoing maintenance. Its fuel rods were, at the time of the incident, stored in a storage pool inside the building.
Thanks to this coincidence, the core of the Unit 4 reactor didn’t melt, unlike the other three reactors. However, hydrogen explosions damaged the roof of the reactor building and weakened the structure, making it prone to collapse in case of another earthquake.
Experts have agreed the fuel rods – four metre long tubes containing pellets of uranium fuel, which have remained inside the building ever since the disaster – pose a major safety risk.
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