” FUKUSHIMA (Jiji Press) — Beginning in fiscal 2015, Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to begin removal of fuel assemblies from one of the storage pools at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was left crippled four years ago in Japan’s worst nuclear accident.
In the No. 3 reactor pool are 514 spent fuel assemblies and 52 unused assemblies. “Removing all fuel bundles from pools in the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors would substantially lower the level of risk at the plant,” says Toyoshi Fuketa, acting head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
Removal of fuel assemblies from the No. 4 reactor pool was completed in December.
However, work to begin emptying the No. 3 reactor pool of assemblies has been slow due to the extensive damage the reactor building suffered from a hydrogen explosion that occurred shortly after the nuclear power plant was hit by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent monster tsunami on March 11, 2011. A lot of debris remains in the storage pool alongside the assemblies.
Among the debris is a 35-ton piece of equipment used to exchange fuel assemblies. Its presence is a major obstacle to beginning the removal work.
TEPCO initially planned to take it out this month but has postponed the procedure until April, according to company officials.
High levels of radiation in the No. 3 reactor building are another obstacle.
Radiation levels there have remained higher than in other reactor buildings since the beginning of the crisis, with readings of over 100 millisieverts per hour measured at many locations. ”