The Japanese government and utility company Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) revealed on Monday that they may be able to start removing the melted fuel from inside the Fukushima nuclear reactors within the first half of 2020 provided that work efficiency is improved. This should be a pleasant surprise for embattled operator TEPCO, meaning that the decommissioning process of the disaster stricken nuclear facility is going faster than expected if the melted fuel removal can start 18 months earlier than initially planned.
This new schedule was included in a draft version of the decommissioning project road map of the Nos. 1 to 4 reactors at the plant. Prospects are optimistic but still relatively unclear, as technology must be built to perform the work. According to the draft road map, TEPCO’s workers may be able to start removing the melted fuel from the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors within the first half of fiscal 2020 at the earliest, installing new structures or restoring existing fuel removal equipment as they go. But the draft timeline still takes into consideration uncertainties in the future. Time schedules could be delayed depending on a number of variables, including how much the buildings are contaminated with radioactive substances. Taking all of these into consideration, fuel removal could start from fiscal 2020 at the earliest or 2023 at the latest.
But even with the added uncertainty of events in the future, the government and TEPCO still maintain their original estimate for completing the decommissioning process within 30 to 40 years from when the plant was in a stable state of cold shutdown in December 2011. “How much time we need to take out the fuel debris hinges on the situation of the fuel. Our basic policy is to accelerate such work as much as possible, but we are not moving up the goal of spending 30-40 years,” an Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry official said. The final version of this revised road map and timeline is expected to be released later this month, after also taking into consideration the opinions of local governments and other industry experts, the official concluded.
[via Kyodo News]