Fuel Rod Removal: Fukushima’s “Most Dangerous Operation” Yields First Successes
Workers at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant have successfully removed the first nuclear fuel rods from a spent fuel pool suspended above ground in what is being referred to as one of the most dangerous operations ever attempted in nuclear history. A total of 22 fuel assemblies were transported today, each containing between 50 and 70 fuel rods, and they are headed to a newer storage pool, a statement released by TEPCO said.
What used to be done by computer is now an entirely manual process because of the tilted position of the cooling pools, damaged by the earthquake and tsunami that battered the area in 2011. The computers typically used for removing spent fuel rods are programmed only to respond to the exact position of a fuel rod. Now that the pools are tilted, those positions are offset, requiring the rods to be removed manually in a delicate and painstaking process.
There are over 1,000 fuel assemblies in the pool in Unit 4 and the operation is expected to extend well into next year.