Fukushima Removes Fuel Rods

Friday, July 20, 2012 @ 02:07 PM gHale

Two rods packed with nuclear fuel from the Fukushima nuclear plant ended up pulled out Wednesday, the beginning of a delicate and long process to reduce the risk of more radiation escaping from the disaster-struck plant in Japan.

All of the 1,535 rods in a spent-fuel pool next to reactor No. 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in northeastern Japan must eventually move to safer storage — an effort expected to take until the end of next year, government officials said.

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A massive explosion destroyed the building containing the pool and reactor following the failure of cooling systems after the huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The cores of three reactors melted.

Fears are rampant about the large amounts of radioactive material stored in the pool, which unlike fuel in the cores of the reactors does not have as rigorous protection. The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), intends to remove all the rods to eliminate the risk of the pool spewing radiation.

Meanwhile, the country is slowly getting its nuclear power regime back in gear as a reactor at the Ohi nuclear plant in central Japan went online Wednesday, the second to restart after the disasters. Another Ohi reactor restarted earlier this month.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets Monday demanding an end to nuclear power, outraged by the restarts. It was the biggest rally since the Fukushima crisis began.

Also Wednesday, the government ordered two utilities, Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates Ohi, and Hokuriki Electric Power Co. to restudy earthquake faults that lie beneath their nuclear plants.

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