The good news for Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) is that the transfer of the first batch of fuel assemblies from Reactor No. 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant went off without a hitch. The bad news is that they would have to perform the delicate operation over and over again until the end of the year as there are over 1,000 fuel assemblies in the spent fuel pool that need to be transferred.
Noriyuki Imaizumi, a TEPCO official, said that the fuel assemblies have been safely transferred to the common pool in the storage rack, signifying the end of the first fuel transfer work. They will be reviewing the work process and the results, and only then will they proceed in the retrieval of the next batch of fuel assemblies. Workers started off removing unused ones in order to get used to the process, but then will have to move on to the more complicated unused fuel, which is highly radioactive, and gives off heat as radioactive elements.
While the No. 4 reactor did not experience a meltdown in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors to suffer core meltdowns, there was a hydrogen explosion in the building housing it. All of the fuel was in the spent fuel pool because it was undergoing maintenance at that time. It became a huge source of concern later on as the water level may have dropped and might expose the fuel, hence the necessity of transferring the fuel assemblies now to a common pool that is located just 100 meters away. This is the first step towards the decommissioning of the crippled plant and the process is the most difficult and dangerous operation TEPCO has handled since 2011.
[ via Mainichi ]