Icicle-shaped objects found in Fukushima Daiichi reactor may carry fuel debris

Icicle-shaped objects that may contain molten nuclear fuel appear in an image released by the operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. That image and others were taken inside the containment vessel of a reactor by a drone.

Tokyo Electric Power Company on Monday disclosed several images showing an area beneath the pressure vessel of the No.1 reactor, which suffered a meltdown in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The company began sending drones into the containment vessel to conduct surveys last month.

One of the images shows icicle-shaped objects hanging from the upper part of equipment that had fallen from the bottom of the pressure vessel.

Last year, the company used a robot to survey beneath the surface of water that had accumulated at the bottom of the containment vessel of the No.1 reactor. It spotted objects that appeared to be nuclear fuel debris.

This is the first time objects that may contain the debris have been seen above the water.

Data gathered from past surveys and simulations indicates there is an estimated 880 tons of fuel debris inside the No.1, 2 and 3 reactors, all of which experienced meltdowns. The No.1 reactor is believed to have the largest amount of debris at the bottom of its containment vessel.

The company plans to analyze the images to study ways to collect the debris and take other measures.