Thu, Dec 22, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Japan details clean-up for damaged nuclear plant

ROADMAP:The process of removing melted fuel rods alone could take more than 20 years, with another five to 10 years needed to fully decommission the plant


Japan yesterday released a lengthy roadmap to clean up and fully decommission a nuclear plant that went into meltdown after it was struck by a huge tsunami, a process the government said would take as many as 40 years.

Japanese Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosono acknowledged that decommissioning three wrecked reactors plus spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was an “unprecedented project,” and that the process was not “totally foreseeable.”

“But we must do it even though we may face difficulties along the way,” Hosono told a news conference.

Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano promised authorities would move through the process “firmly while ensuring safety at the plant.”

He also vowed to pay attention to the concerns of tens of thousands of residents displaced when the plant was knocked out by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Under the plan, approved earlier yesterday following consultation with experts and nuclear regulators, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) will start removing spent fuel rods within two years from their pools located on the top floor of each of their reactor buildings.

After that is completed, TEPCO will start removing the melted fuel, most of which is believed to have fallen to the bottom of the core or even down to the bottom of the larger, beaker-shaped containment vessel, a process that is expected to be completed 25 years from now. The location and conditions of the melted fuel is not exactly known.

Completely decommissioning the plant would require five to 10 more years after the fuel debris removal, making the entire process up to 40 years, the roadmap shows.

The process still requires development of robots and technology that can do much of the work remotely because of extremely high radiation levels inside the reactor buildings. Officials say they are aiming to have such robots by 2013.

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