News / Asia

Under Fire, TEPCO Prepares for Critical Phase of Fukushima Cleanup

Japan Braces as TEPCO Prepares for Critical Phase of Fukushima Clean-Upi
X
October 15, 2013 6:09 PM
Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan are about to embark on one of the most critical aspects of the clean-up: removing the fuel rods from one of the worst-hit reactors. Critics say that the plant’s owners, TEPCO, should not be trusted to carry out the operation - and warn of the consequences of an accident could be dire. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from Tokyo.
Japan Braces as TEPCO Prepares for Critical Phase of Fukushima Clean-Up
Henry Ridgwell
Workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan are about to embark on one of the most critical aspects of the clean-up: removing the fuel rods from one of the worst-hit reactors. Critics say the plant’s owners, TEPCO, should not be trusted to carry out the operation and warn the consequences of any accident would be unprecedented.

Over 1500 fuel rods sit in a damaged storage pool 30 meters above the ground inside the shell of the reactor 4 building at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Safely removing them is the next big challenge for the plant’s owner, TEPCO.

General Manager Masayuki Ono said the operation has been carefully planned.

He explained that because the entire reactor 4 building was destroyed by a hydrogen explosion, TEPCO had to reinforce the structure. This happened during the first year and that new building is now strong enough to stand another earthquake, he added.

That hydrogen explosion - one of the iconic images of the Fukushima accident - left the inside of the pool littered with debris.

Debris, fuel rod removal

TEPCO’s first task is to remove the debris. And then, one by one, the fuel rods will be removed manually using a crane suspended above the crippled reactor building.

Ono explained that a fuel extraction cover was built over Unit 4 and installed at the fuel handling facility. This structure does not put any weight on the Reactor 4 building, and can be used to remove the fuel without adding any additional weight.

The fuel rods must be kept submerged and must not touch each other or break. Nuclear experts warn any mishaps could cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.

Mitsuhei Murata, Japan’s former ambassador to Switzerland and an anti-nuclear campaigner, said a series of incidents over the past 30 months - including radioactive water leaks - have called into question TEPCO’s ability to carry out this critical operation.

“The Unit 4 contains 10 times more Cesium-137 than Chernobyl. So in case the worst occurs, a total withdrawal [from the site] will be imposed, which means this can be considered as the beginning of the ultimate catastrophe of the world and the planet,” said Murata.

International help

Murata said the Fukushima crisis requires the world’s best scientific minds. “The two-and-a-half years of struggling by the state and by TEPCO have proven that nuclear accidents cannot be coped with by electric companies or by a single state. That’s why Japan should ask for international cooperation.”

Hironori Nakanishi, Director-General for Energy Policy at the government's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, said Japan is engaging foreign expertise.

“The sole responsibility in managing the situation safely is still on TEPCO corporation. But still we are in the same boat and we have to support their activity," said Nakanishi. "So in order to achieve that goal we asked specialists from all over the world, which consists of six people, from the United States, the UK, France, Russia and Ukraine.”

Inspectors from Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority have approved TEPCO’s planned operation to remove the fuel from Reactor 4. The process is scheduled to begin in November and will take up to 18 months.

You May Like

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 21, 2013 8:41 AM
The real challenge of Fukushima leak has not been addressed. Fukushima leaks not because it had to contend with an earthquake and tsunami, it leaks because it wants the world to be awake and prepare for a colossal radioactive radiation that will be about to confront it in the wake of a leak in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which the likes of Iran entering the race will produce. China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Turkey, Libya, Egypt, and many more countries want nuclear program for one purpose or another, and some of these countries cannot ensure its safety not to end up in the hands of terrorists. So the challenge is not the minor problem it presently poses, but for the scientists - chemical, biological, neuritic etc. - to find ways of fighting a massive and global leak of this dangerous fumes on humans.

Giving prizes to scientists for hypothesis proffered as theories is not helping humanity. Trying to disprove the existence of God when there is bedeviling, nagging question of safety from nuclear outburst, is in the least counterproductive, diversionary, evil and devilish. Let humanity find ways of sustaining, maintaining and enhancing life rather than go for those abstracts of looking for ways of taking away man's peace of mind and relationships by trying to say there is no God. For as long as man continues in that direction, the more stupid man's existence and quest for knowledge becomes, just as it has shown in creating trouble with fables to attack peoples' peace of mind and religion instead of concentrating on finding solution to man's problems - like diseases and man-made disasters of NUCLEAR fume and toxicity. In my opinion, Nobel organization should stop giving out further prizes yearly until there is a breakthrough to this solution of nuclear fumes threat. Any other prize is just a way to keep going in the face of nothing.

by: bj from: CA
October 20, 2013 9:29 PM
I think we need to give our savior Obama a couple more Peace prizes just in case this operation goes tits up... at least then we know we have looked after the important issues

by: luc de waen from: spain
October 19, 2013 2:21 AM
it is a good thing they never tell a lie, and really know what they are doing.....

by: Hiroshi Suzuki from: Tokyo
October 15, 2013 1:43 PM
Fukushima radiation worse than feared – experts 14 October 2013 Voice of Russia
The radioactive water leaks into the ocean have never stopped, because the plant molten corium is continuously cooled. A state of emergency should now be declared throughout the world community. Japan needs international control, Tokyo can’t manage it on its own. As of today, the radiation levels around the plant are so high that staying there for four hours would be lethal for a person. Neither Japan, nor the International Atomic Energy Agency is capable of controlling the situation. Background radiation is 400 times the normal levels in towns just 10 kilometers away from the crippled nuclear plant.
In Response

by: GW from: USA
October 16, 2013 3:41 PM
I agree in regards to the corium, I was under the impression that we are dealing with at least two coriums not just one, am I not correct on that? Also this corium compared to the Chernobyl plant is just sitting in bare ground, who knows if h2o is even getting down into the corium in order to cool if down properly. What I think is happening from reading all of these news reports is that the molten corium is lose in the soil and coming back up through the ocean creating a "misting" of the ocean itself, I think that this is actually heat from one of the coriums.... god help us all!

by: Perry from: Washington
October 15, 2013 12:17 PM
Maybe they should practice more button pushing and pipe disconnection first.
In Response

by: PC from: Australia
November 05, 2013 7:29 PM
I think that you are all fatalists, Nuclear power is the only way to go as far as no pollution, extremely efficient & a source of clean power.
The reason that we have had all of these nuclear accidents is not due to the reactor processes but due to human incompetence. The problem is/and has been operators not knowing how to correctly operate the equipment and by passing safety requirements ie Chernobyl is a prime example, they shut down the cooling system accidentally when the standby cooling system was out of service. 3 Mile Island again human error. Fukushima again an engineering design problem, all in all HUMAN ERRORS.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More