Company Prepares for Risky Clean Up of Fukushima Reactor


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From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

Workers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan will soon begin another clean-up effort. More than 1,500 nuclear fuel rods are to be removed from a damaged storage pool 30 meters above ground, inside the Reactor 4 building. TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, owns the nuclear power station. Critics say TEPCO should not be trusted to carry out the operation. However, TEPCO General Manager Masayuki Ono says the operation has been carefully planned. TEPCO had to rebuild the Reactor 4 building after a hydrogen explosion destroyed it. TEPCO workers will first remove pieces of wreckage left by the explosion. Then workers will remove the fuel rods one by one. They will use a crane suspended above the building. The fuel rods must not touch each other or break. Nuclear experts warn that any accidents could cause an explosion many times worse than the one in March 2011. Mitsuhei Murata is Japan’s former ambassador to Switzerland and an anti-nuclear activist. He notes that problems over the past 30 months, including radioactive water leaks, have raised questions about TEPCO’s efforts. He says if the worst happens, and workers have to withdraw, then it could be considered what he calls “the beginning of the ultimate catastrophe of the world.”Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy says TEPCO alone is responsible for safety. But to support TEPCO, the agency has sought advice from specialists around the world. Nuclear inspectors have approved TEPCO’s plan to remove the fuel from Reactor 4. The process is expected to begin in November and be finished in 18 months. For VOA Learning English, I’m Carolyn Presutti.