Fuel removal may start at No.2 reactor

A government body advising on decommissioning of the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says removal of molten fuel should start in the facility's No.2 reactor.

Three of the plant's reactors suffered meltdowns in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Fuel debris is believed to lie at the bottom of their containment vessels.

Removal of the molten fuel is extremely dangerous work because it is emitting deadly levels of radiation.

The government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company seek to start the removal in 2021.

The advising body, Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation, released a draft plan for fuel debris removal. It stresses that reactor No.2 is where the work should begin.

It says robot and other surveys have provided the most detailed images and data from inside the No.2 reactor, and that routes to send robots into the containment vessel for cleaning up have already been set.

The plan recommends keeping the recovered fuel debris in air-cooled metal containers. It says it has been sufficiently cooled by water in the years since the disaster.

The government and TEPCO are expected to finalize the procedures by next March.