After disaster, the deadliest part of Japan's nuclear clean-up
TOKYO (REUTERS) - The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is preparing to remove 400 tonnes of highly irradiated spent fuel from a damaged reactor building, a dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale.
Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) is already in a losing battle to stop radioactive water overflowing from another part of the facility, and experts question whether it will be able to pull off the removal of all the assemblies successfully.
"They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods," said Mr Arnie Gundersen, a veteran US nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, who used to build fuel assemblies.