Fuel removal starts at Fukushima Daiichi 3

15 April 2019

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited the Fukushima Daiichi site today as the process to remove used fuel from unit 3 officially began. It has taken several years for Tepco to remove debris from the reactor building service floor and prepare for this work to reduce the hazard at the accident site.

Shinzo Abe visits the Fukushima Daiichi site in normal clothes. Unit 3's fuel removal structure is visible in the background (Image: Kantei)

There are 566 highly radioactive fuel assemblies, previously used to generate electricity, stored in the pool of Fukushima Daiichi 3. They will be moved one by one into transfer casks, which will then be lifted from the pool, cleaned and taken to a nearby storage facility. It is normal for this kind of work to be done from a control centre, but in this case the workers will be 1500 metres away in a purpose-built facility.

Tepco will inspect the fuel and flush it clean of any remaining dust and debris before storage in the communal pool. Inspections inside unit 3's pool indicate there is no significant damage to the fuel assemblies.

By removing the assemblies, Tepco will be significantly reducing the radioactive inventory of the four destroyed reactors. The company was able to perform a similar process for 1331 used assemblies in unit 4, which had suffered much worse structural damage, by the end of 2014.

Abe visit


Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited the region today, looking over the decommissioning site and celebrating the progress that means protective clothing is no longer needed. "By serious efforts ... work is progressing step by step," he said.

He also visited J-Village, the sports centre which was commandeered to support stabilisation of the power plant immediately after the accident but which has now been returned to its original purpose and is preparing to play a role in the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Abe took part in a ceremony at Okuma, the town nearest the plant, to officially re-open its government office, saying he hoped it was the first step towards a fully fledged recovery. The evacuation order was lifted in a portion of the town on 10 April.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News