In a highly risky undertaking Fukushima plant operators have finally begun removing over 1,500 nuclear fuel rods from one of the four reactors at its damaged nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan on Monday.
During the first transfers of the operation, steel fuel rods were laid in a cooling pool in a damaged reactor building. The portable pool holds 22 rods, with the operation being likened to removing cigarettes from a squashed pack.
While the first group will take around two days to move, it could take up to a week to move the cooling pool to a common storage pool in a different building, TEPCO told Reuters.
“We will continue with the work from tomorrow and proceed, paying close attention to safety,” said TEPCO in the statement.
It is important to conduct the transfer as soon as possible as they are being stored in an unstable building which could potentially collapse in the event of another earthquake.
While the full decommissioning of the plant is expected to take decades, the company said it plans to remove 22 rods over the course of two days.
If these rods break or overheat, radioactive gases could be released into the atmosphere, however, prompting a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction.