The Fukushima operator completes the removing of the second set of spent gas rods

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© Reuters. The top of the damaged reactor building No. 3 can be seen in the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the city of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

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By Aaron Sheldrick

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tepco, the operator of the destroyed Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima, said it successfully removed spent uranium fuel from a damaged reactor building in an important step in the rehabilitation of the site a decade ago following a nuclear disaster.

Tepco, formerly known as Tokyo Electric Power, said it had moved around 170 tons of spent uranium fuel from the height of the building to a safer location – the second successful operation of its kind and the first to be carried out remotely on the high radiation in the reactor building.

Japan is preparing for the tenth anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters of March 11, 2011. It will provide Tepco with vital experience and data for the much more difficult and time consuming task of extracting molten reactor cores and wastes over the coming decades.

At 1:59 p.m. local time (0459 GMT) on Sunday, the last six of 566 spent fuel assemblies were removed from the spent fuel pool by a crane operated by a team about 500 meters away, Tepco said in an email Declaration sent to Reuters on Monday.

The transfer from Building No. 3 began in April 2019 after more than 1,300 fuel rods were safely removed from the badly damaged building of Reactor No. 4 in 2014.

Work on Unit # 3 required the removal of huge damaged pieces of equipment that fell into the pool during the explosions that shook the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the days following an earthquake and tsunami that turned off power and emergency cooling.

Three overheated reactors melted down in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

For the past decade, Tepco has had to contend with large amounts of contaminated water building up on site due to the nature of its ad hoc cooling system that keeps molten fuel in a safe condition.

The utility company has also been criticized several times by regulators for security breaches and other shortcomings.

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