A trove of new images captured in the past few days show what is likely to be melted nuclear fuel from inside one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima reactors, a potential milestone in the cleanup of one of the worst atomic disasters in history.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., Japan’s biggest utility, released images on Saturday of mounds of black rock and sand-like substances at the bottom of the No. 3 reactor containment vessel at Fukushima, which is likely to contain melted fuel, according to Takahiro Kimoto, an official at the company. A survey on Friday found black icicles hanging from the above pressure vessel, which was “highly likely” to contain melted fuel. Kimoto noted it would take time to confirm whether this debris contains melted fuel.

“The pictures that we have gained will assist us in devising a plan for removing the melted fuel,” Kimoto told reporters Saturday night in Tokyo. “Taking pictures of how debris scattered inside of the reactor was a big accomplishment.”

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