Ja­pan OKs long-term Fukushima cleanup plan


Ja­pan’s gov­ern­ment ap­proved Fri­day a re­vised 30- to 40-year roadmap to clean up the wrecked Fukushima nu­clear plant, but many ques­tions re­main.

The plan, en­dorsed by Cabi­net mem­bers and of­fi­cials, de­lays the start of a key ini­tial step — the re­moval of spent fuel in stor­age pools at each of the three melted re­ac­tors — by up to three years due to ear­lier mishaps and safety prob­lems at the plant.

Three of the plant’s six re­ac­tors melted fol­low­ing the 2011 earth­quake and tsunami. The fourth, which was off­line and had no fuel in the core at the time of the ac­ci­dent, suf­fered dam­age to its build­ing, and its fuel stor­age pool was emp­tied late last year.

De­spite the de­lay, ex­perts need to lo­cate and study melted fuel in­side the re­ac­tors and de­velop ro­bots to start de­bris re­moval within six years as planned.

Ex­perts be­lieve melted fuel had breached the re­ac­tor cores and mostly fell to the bot­tom of the con­tain­ment cham­bers, some pos­si­bly sink­ing into the con­crete foun­da­tion.

The plant op­er­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Power Co., has con­ducted limited sur­veys of the re­ac­tors us­ing re­mote- con­trolled ro­bots.

The roadmap says the ini­tial plan to re­pair dam­age in the con­tain­ment cham­bers and fill them with wa­ter to con­duct de­bris re­moval un­der­wa­ter is more tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing than pre­vi­ously thought, and al­ter­na­tive plans need to be stud­ied.

Ra­di­a­tion lev­els at the re­ac­tors re­main high and the plant is still hob­bled by the mas­sive amount of con­tam­i­nated wa­ter.

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