Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Dec. 3 it will start removing nuclear fuel from a precarious storage pool at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in mid-November next year, a month earlier than planned.
The plant’s operator also said it intends to complete the removal work by the end of 2014, moving up the schedule by around a year.
In a preliminary test, TEPCO removed two bundles of unused fuel rods from the storage pool at the No. 4 reactor building in July. The company found no major distortions or corrosion in the bundles.
The utility also said work to remove debris from the upper part of the building has been proceeding smoothly.
Those favorable developments prompted TEPCO to shorten the fuel-removal schedule and speed up efforts, such as using two transport vessels, instead of one, to move the bundles to a common-use pool in the compound.
TEPCO initially planned to begin the work in late December 2013 and to finish the process at the end of 2015.
The No. 4 reactor storage pool contains 1,533 bundles of spent and unused fuel rods, the most among the plant's No. 1 to No. 6 reactors.
A hydrogen explosion caused serious damage to the No. 4 reactor building after the onset of the accident. Calls have grown for early fuel removal over concerns that another major earthquake could cause the storage pool to collapse and expose the bundles.
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