The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began removing nuclear fuel rods from a storage pool in one of the damaged reactor buildings on Monday.
This is the first time Tokyo Electric Power Company has removed fuel from any of the three buildings housing reactors that melted down after an earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011.
There are 514 units of radioactive spent fuel and 52 unused fuel units in the No.3 reactor building.
By late afternoon, workers had lifted four units of unused nuclear fuel from the storage pool and moved them to a transport container. The entire procedure was conducted by remote control.
The workers lifted the rods slowly so that the fuel would not be caught by debris caused by a hydrogen explosion that occurred as the nuclear accident unfolded. It took about an hour to move one unit 10 meters underwater.
The workers will move the rods to another storage pool at the plant in batches of seven.
TEPCO was forced to delay the start of the removal operation by more than four years due to a series of problems, including the need to decontaminate the top floor of the reactor buildings.
The company aims to finish the work by the end of March 2021.