After announcing last week that it is set to start the highly complicated operation of removing the fuel assemblies from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear, utility operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) may reportedly have to postpone said process. This is due to the discovery of new leaks as well as recent reports that show that some of the fuel rods may have been damaged even before the meltdown last 2011, the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
New video footage shows that there are additional leaks within the reactors, with 30 millisieverts per hour of radiation. This is in addition to the leak that was detected by a remote-controlled robot late last week, which showed radiation readings of 0.9 to 1.8 sieverts an hour at the damaged No. 1 reactor. Recent information sheets from TEPCO have come to light, showing that three of the fuel assemblies were damaged way before the meltdown of 3 out of the plant’s four nuclear reactors. Kazuaki Matsui, the executive director of Japan’s Institute of Applied Energy, admits that it will be “very difficult” removing the spent fuel rods because the wall and the bottom of the reactors have melted.
Meanwhile, sources have told Reuters that TEPCO is looking at letting go of around 1,000 workers by the second half of 2014 through voluntary retirements. This is part of their reorganization that seeks to avoid the company declaring bankruptcy or turning into a publicly funded clean-up and the eventual shutdown of the Fukushima reactors. TEPCO is looking for 500 billion yen (approx. US$5 billion) of bank funding, aside from the 47 billion yen ($469 million) the government has allotted for dealing with the 1,000 tanks of radiated water that are still at the plant. They are telling banks that they will be able to get the two reactors at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant by fiscal 2014, which will lead them to returning to an operating profit.