The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) have announced plans to remove 1,533 fuel assemblies from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant No. 4 reactor by 2014, a year ahead of schedule.
The change in schedule was announced in response to concerns that the building currently suspending the spent fuel pool above No. 4 reactor may be structurally unsound, NTV reported Tuesday.
TEPCO in June reported that the building was tilting and bulging in several places, causing fears that it could collapse, dumping thousands of fuel rods into the earth.
According to TEPCO, the No. 4 reactor was offline when the tsunami struck on March 11, 2011. As a result, 202 fresh fuel assemblies and 1,331 spent fuel assemblies were placed into the pool before the meltdowns occurred. Each assembly contains 50 to 70 rods.
The quake and tsunami caused damage to four of the plant’s six reactors and triggered three core meltdowns. The structure of the No. 4 reactor building was damaged in an explosion, causing fears that it may collapse and the pool be spilled into the earth. The structure was then later reinforced and a lid placed on the pool.
Successful debris clearance work means that extraction of the fuel assemblies is to commence a month ahead of schedule from November next year, TEPCO said. After extraction, the assemblies will be placed into two containers and moved to a common pool in which conditions are thought to be more stable.