Fukushima Daiichi Fuel Removal Unit 4 Reactor, Completed

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fukushima- (PanOrient News) The first major advance toward decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has been completed with all fuel assemblies removed from one of the four damaged reactor buildings, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced on Monday.

The fuel removal, which began more than a year ago after extensive preparations and training, was completed at approximately 15:00 on December 22, "safely and on schedule, resulting in a significantly safer environment for workers and surrounding communities, and developing skills that will be essential in the removal of similar assemblies from the other three reactor units", the company said.

Removal of the 1,535 fuel assemblies including the 1,331 spent fuel and other unused fuel from Unit 4 began last November after extensive work to stabilize the heavily damaged building. The spent fuel assemblies have been moved from a spent fuel pool that is suspended four stories high to a pool in a separate building at ground level, work that was completed on November 5, 2014. The unused fuel was removed and transported to a pool where it is now stored in Unit 6, one of two reactor buildings at the facility that was undamaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

TEPCO President and CEO Naomi Hirose explained that the completion is important for several reasons: “Most importantly, it makes Unit 4 and the Fukushima Daiichi site in general a safer place to work, and it adds to the safety of the communities near the facility.” He said “Successful completion of the removal of fuel from Unit 4 allows us to turn our attention to our next tasks with the benefit of experience, enabling us to work even more safely and more efficiently.”

President Hirose praised the workers and organizations involved, saying it was done "safely and without incident which is testimony to the skill and commitment of our engineers and workers at every level, and to the many other organizations, in Japan and from around the world, that contributed their knowledge and resources. I wish to express my personal gratitude, and that of our company, to all of them.”

Fuel removal operations will next shift to Units 1-3, where efforts will be made more challenging by the elevated level of radioactivity in those units, according to TEPCO.

“TEPCO is to be congratulated for this success,” said Dr. Dale Klein, former head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission who now chairs TEPCO’s group of independent advisors. “The processes used in planning for and successfully executing this complex year-long effort demonstrated that TEPCO is incorporating concepts from its new safety culture into its work. As attention shifts to the other units this is not the time to become complacent, as challenges will be even greater. But I believe TEPCO and its partners are creating a strong team needed to address these challenges.”

TEPCO is Japan's largest power company, with 35,000 employees, supplying energy to the greater Kanto area for about 29.0 million customers including Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan's two most populous cities.

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