The Mainichi Daily News
December 10, 2011

Analysis of the accident suggested that the No. 1 and 2 reactors have holes of up to 50 square centimeters (nearly 20 inches) caused by hydrogen explosions.

It is expected to take more than 30 years to decommission crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, and workers tasked with the difficult mission would have to venture into “uncharted territory” filled with hundreds of metric tons of highly radioactive nuclear fuel, experts say.

After the expert committee of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) compiled a report on procedures to decommission the No. 1 to 4 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on Dec. 7, the actual work is expected to move into high gear after the turn of the year. As in the case of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, the workers would try to remove melted nuclear fuel after shielding radiation with water, a technique called a “water tomb.” But the work would have to be done in a “territory where humans have not stepped into before,” said a senior official of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the troubled Fukushima nuclear power station. The work is so difficult that it is expected to take more than 30 years to finish decommissioning the reactors.

The key part of the decommissioning work is to remove a total of 1,496 fuel rods from the No. 1 to 3 nuclear reactors and 3,108 fuel rods from nuclear fuel pools of the No. 1 to 4 reactors. The government and TEPCO are expected to start decommissioning the reactors early in the New Year after unveiling detailed plans around Dec. 16 that the nuclear plant has been brought under control by achieving a stable state called a ”cold shutdown.”

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