The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has unveiled a device that could become the first to directly handle fuel debris inside one of the facility's crippled reactors.
Tokyo Electric Power Company showed the device to the media on Monday ahead of a survey scheduled for next month at the plant's Number 2 reactor. It's one of the reactors that experienced meltdowns in 2011.
TEPCO has found what appears to be a mixture of molten nuclear fuel and structural parts at the bottom of the reactor's containment vessel.
The device, which is equipped with a camera and a dosimeter, is attached to a pole that extends up to 15 meters long. Its tip works like tongs, allowing it to pick up the possible debris.
TEPCO plans to send the device into the containment vessel to see how hard the possible debris is, and whether it can be moved.
Removing debris is a key step toward decommissioning the plant.
Toshihiro Yasuda of Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions, which developed the device, says the survey is an important step toward coming up with ways to remove the debris.
In the second half of fiscal 2019, which starts in April, TEPCO plans to conduct a more detailed survey that would involve extracting a small sample of the debris.
The company aims to decide by March 2020 at which reactor to start removing debris. It hopes to start the work in 2021.