Fukushima-1 operator plans fuel extraction from power units.

TOKYO, September 1 (Itar-Tass) — Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), — the operator of the Fukushima-1 NPP, at which an accident took place last March, drew up for the first time a plan of the extraction of fuel from the damaged nuclear power units, as well as their dismantling. The document was forwarded to the government commission for nuclear power engineering on Wednesday, and set forth by some mass media organs on Thursday.

TEPCO admits that the coming work for the extraction of 1,496 fuel rods from the first, second and third reactors would be an extremely complicated operation, which will require the use of entirely new robots. The most difficult job for the liquidators of the accident will be the extraction of partially melted fuel from the lower part of each of the power units. With this in view their buildings will be deactivated. The upper structures will be restored and reinforced, in order to be able to place cranes on them. Many operations will be performed under remote control. Experts believe that preparations for them will take some ten years. TEPCO does not mention any concrete time limits. At the same time, its specialists believe that, considering a high radiation level in the zone of the power units, they should be filled with water after the sealing of all fractures and holes in the hull and after the repair of the equipment. Water will become a sort of protective barrier. Soon after the March accident at Fukushima-1, TEPCO tried to create a kind of “water sarcophagus”, in order to cool the power units. The feeding of water into the seriously damaged power units increased the inflow of highly radioactive liquid into the basements of the NPP, which forced specialists to give up those attempts and to use the air cooling system.

TEPCO suggests the beginning of the extraction of 3,108 used fuel rods from the basins of four reactors within the coming three years. On the whole, Japanese specialists in nuclear power engineering believe that the dismantling of all the equipment at the damaged NPP will take some 30 years and will cost TEPCO no less than 1,000 billion yen (over 12 billion dollars).

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