The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it will conduct the first contact survey on suspected fuel debris inside one of the reactors.
It will be a key probe in the effort to decommission the plant. The No.1, No.2, and No.3 reactors at the facility experienced a meltdown as a result of the earthquake and tsunami which struck eastern Japan on March 11th, 2011.
Tokyo Electric Power Company said on Thursday that it will insert the measurement device into the containment vessel of the No.2 reactor next Wednesday.
The device has a maximum length of 15 meters, making it possible to reach the area directly below the reactor core where the suspected fuel debris is located.
TEPCO says the tip of the device will touch and pinch the debris. The company says it hopes to assess how hard the debris is and whether it can be moved.
Results of the survey will also be important in determining how to retrieve the debris. The utility plans to take a sample of it from the reactor sometime between October and March.
TEPCO says it can plan a sampling survey if the debris may be moved. The firm adds that the information obtained will be used to assemble removal equipment even if the debris cannot be moved.
TEPCO says it will begin a comprehensive debris retrieval operation in 2021. The firm plans to decide by March of next year which reactor it will first work on.