JAPAN -- The operators of the Fukushima Nuclear Cleanup has begun removing radioactive fuel rods used to power nuclear weapons. There are three reactors that have melted down after an earthquake and tsunami hit the power plant in 2011. Japan's desire is to clean up the plant to prevent the worst from happening, finally, they have hit yet another milestone. The cleanup effort has long been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, but authorities are now happy about what has transpired on April 15th.
Thousands of residents who used to live in the area were barred from coming in during the cleanup. This was to ensure no one is harmed as the crew carry out radioactive materials in a large scale. These were all part of the aftermath of what Japan considers as the worst nuclear disaster in history -- the Chernobyl. The removal of the fuel rods was supposed to be done in 2014, but the government decided against it for possible technical mishaps and potentially high radiation levels present in the storage pools.
Tokyo Electric Power Plant, the designated plant operator released in a statement that their workers have begun to remove the first set from roughly 566 spent and unspent fuels rods. All these were stored in a pool at the third reactor of the power plant. The process began in 2017 when a robot hardened by radiation has located the melted uranium fuel.
"Thankful for the training they underwent, the work they have accomplished so far is going as smoothly as planned," said Tomohiko Isogai, the nuclear plant director, who was referring to the workers that were part of the cleanup. He also expressed that the plant officials are "very sorry" for the delays that have put in place in the past.
There are still about 1,573 fuel rods left in these storage pools in the three reactors. The Kyodo News agency reported on Monday that this number of rods are already the combined number from all the pools that melted down in 2011. The officials of the power plant revealed the cleanup of the third reactor might take an estimate of two years. The removal of the uranium from all three reactors are also part of the bigger cleanup plan.
The workers of the cleanup are trained to use a remotely operated crane to make the removal of these fuel rods possible. The entire process is done underwater to prevent any form of a radiation leak. The removal of these rods proves to be a rather challenging process because they are stored in unenclosed pools and are vulnerable in the advent of another earthquake.
People began to come back to Okuma, as soon as authorities announced that the radiation levels in the area have fallen to a much safer level. Last year, it was reported that exposure to such high levels of radiation at the site could immediately cause death.
The operation was a success even though it took a long time. The authorities have acknowledged such risk that's why they are very careful in removing these fuel rods to prevent the worst from happening.