News / Asia

    Japan Starts Riskiest Work at Fukushima Nuclear Plant

    FILE-Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employees and journalists wearing protective suits and masks look at the spent fuel pool inside the building housing the Unit 4 reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
    FILE-Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employees and journalists wearing protective suits and masks look at the spent fuel pool inside the building housing the Unit 4 reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
    VOA News
    Technicians at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have begun their most dangerous task in decommissioning the complex damaged by the 2011 tsunami.

    The process that started Monday is aimed at delicately removing about 1,500 sets of radioactive fuel rods from a storage pool inside a damaged nuclear reactor building. The uranium and plutonium rods from reactor number four will be transferred to another storage pool in a safer structure.

    Tokyo Electric Power Company said it expects the operation to last a year. A mistake or accident that damages the fuel rods could release large amounts of radiation.

    In day one of the operation, Japanese workers used a crane to remove four sets of fuel rods from a rack inside the storage pool and placed them into a fully-immersed cask. They plan to fill the cask with 22 sets of rods by Tuesday, before lifting the cask out of the pool and driving it to the safer container building.

    Fukushima's reactor number four was offline at the time of the earthquake-triggered tsunami. But hydrogen got into the building and caused explosions that blew off the roof and damaged the walls surrounding the fuel rod storage pool, which is more than 18 meters above ground level. Authorities fear another earthquake could topple the pool.

    TEPCO has drawn strong criticism for its handling of the Fukushima decommissioning process. In recent months it has reported a series of mishaps including leaks from tanks storing radioactive water.

    After completing work on reactor number four, technicians will begin removing radioactive waste from three other reactors that went into meltdown after the tsunami.

    TEPCO said decommissioning the entire Fukushima complex could take 30 to 40 years.

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    by: Hiroshi Suzuki from: Tokyo
    November 19, 2013 1:46 PM
    Fukushima fallout damaged thyroid glands of California babies 19th November 2013 The Ecologist Confirmed cases of hypothyroidism, defined as those with Thyroid Stimulating Hormone level greater than 29 units increased by 21% in the group of babies that were exposed to excess radioactive Iodine in the womb. The same group of children had a 27% increase in 'borderline cases'. Our paper reports 44 confirmed thyroid cancer cases in 0-18 year olds in Fukushima in the last six months (a figure that has since risen to 53). In the hypothyroidism paper we discuss the 44 cases relative to the population and calculate that this represents an 80-fold excess based on national data prior to the Fukushima Iodine releases.

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