Special underwater robot found potential fuel debris investigating Fukushima’s Unit 3 destroyed reactor

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The nuclear plant was affected by a big earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which was one of the worst atomic disasters in history. Locating and analyzing the fuel debris and damage in each of the plant’s three wrecked reactors is crucial for decommissioning the plant. The fuel debris found mixed with broken reactor parts  revealed the difficult challenges ahead in the decades-long decommissioning of the destroyed plant.

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Image captured by the underwater robot

It will take time first to figure out debris removal methods. “From the pictures taken today, it is obvious that some melted objects came out of the reactor. This means something of high temperature melted some structural objects and came out. So it is natural to think that melted fuel rods are mixed with them,” said Takahiro Kimoto, a spokesman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. during a news conference Friday. Because of the high radioactivity in the reactor, only specially designed robots can be used. The technology to solve the specific problems were not yet invented. Decommissioning the reactors will cost $72 billion, according to an estimate in December from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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