First of four Fukushima reactors cleared of nuclear fuel

December 20, 2014
Reactor four at Fukushima, pictured in April 9, 2011, has been cleared of radioactive fuel rods, the operator says

One of four heavily damaged reactor buildings at Japan's tsunami-battered Fukushima nuclear power plant has been cleared of radioactive fuel rods, the operator said Saturday.

It was a significant step in the decommissioning efforts, but workers still have three heavily crippled to clean up after they were sent into meltdown in the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.

The overall cleanup work of the Fukushima plant is expected to take decades.

A total of 1,535 fuel rod assemblies have been now taken out of the building after Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO's) yearlong operation, a company spokesman said.

"Completion of the removal work is a milestone, but the decommission work will continue," plant chief Akira Ono told reporters.

The was removed from a pool used to store the rods—which were mostly spent—in the reactor number 4 building, which was offline for regular checkups at the time of the March 2011 disaster.

The tsunami battered the plant's cooling system and sent reactors number 1 to 3 into meltdown, setting off the worst atomic accident in a generation.

TEPCO will remove fuel rod assemblies from the pools of other damaged buildings before extracting the melted from the reactors.

© 2014 AFP