The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has started laying the groundwork to retrieve fuel from one of the plant's reactor buildings. It's a crucial step toward scrapping the complex.
Tokyo Electric Power Company began the work on Monday to move 615 fuel rod units from a storage pool on the top floor of the No. 2 reactor to a more secure location.
The No. 2 reactor is one of 3 at the plant that melted down in the 2011 accident. Radiation levels inside the reactor building remain high.
TEPCO will open a hole measuring 5 by 7 meters in the building's wall and send a robot through it to measure radiation levels inside.
A section of the wall will be divided into 29 blocks, each with a handle to facilitate its removal.
From a control room some distance from the reactor building, TEPCO officials will remotely operate a machine to remove the blocks.
The work is expected to continue until mid-June.
The plant operator will measure radiation levels before deciding how to retrieve the fuel rods. The company plans to start retrieving the fuel in fiscal 2023.
TEPCO official Hiroshi Noda says that although the decommissioning work for the No. 2 reactor has just started, it's a major step forward.
He says the company will make sure that the work will have no impact on the environment.