NHK: Fuel rods to be removed from No. 4 fuel pool — Concerns about sea water damage — Special container so fuel doesn’t going critical — Test date not revealed ‘for security reasons’

Published: July 13th, 2012 at 1:00 am ET


TEPCO to remove rods from No.4 fuel pool
Jul. 13, 2012

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will soon start test runs for removing fuel rods from a storage pool of the No. 4 reactor.

Removal Procedure

A crane will be used to pull each of the 2 rods out of the pool, and then place them in a special container on the 5th floor of the reactor building.

The container will prevent the fuel from going critical.

Another crane will lower the container to the ground, where a truck will take it to a facility called a “common pool.”


Four cables will be used to prevent the container from falling.

Damage to Metal Container? (See: Onagawa)

TEPCO will also check if there’s any damage to the metal container used to store the fuel rods. This is a concern because seawater was used to cool the reactor after last year’s accident.

Security Reasons

TEPCO says it cannot reveal the date of the test for security reasons.

h/t Anonymous tip

Published: July 13th, 2012 at 1:00 am ET


Related Posts

  1. TEPCO: Nuclear fuel rods in No. 4 spent fuel pool are “confirmed to be damaged” — First time damage revealed at any pool April 13, 2011
  2. Fuel assemblies placed in special container after cleaning, not yet transferred into shared pool — No “major abnormality” in external appearance or radiation levels July 20, 2012
  3. Gov’t flip-flops: Unit 4’s fuel rods to be removed starting this year — ‘Buckling’ building, quake concerns behind change June 21, 2012
  4. Tepco prepares to film Spent Fuel Pool No. 4 — “You can vaguely discern the fuel rods” says worker February 10, 2012
  5. Tepco releases video of Spent Fuel Pool No. 4: Debris that fell on racks of fuel rods “apparently” caused no damage (VIDEO) February 10, 2012

53 comments to NHK: Fuel rods to be removed from No. 4 fuel pool — Concerns about sea water damage — Special container so fuel doesn’t going critical — Test date not revealed ‘for security reasons’

  • NoNukes NoNukes

    Magic snow fairies will then produce a cool environment, while Queen Clarion sings them to sleep.

  • doctorwhowhatwhere doctorwhowhatwhere

    No doubt they'll wait for the foggiest day possible on which to do this.

    And considering the amount of radioactive dust they slung into the wind when they were razing the top two floors of #4, well, nothing could possibly go wrong when they start removing fuel rods. After all, TEPCO and their hirelings are always so very careful.


  • After using seawater for cooling they may need tweezers instead of a crane.

  • doctorwhowhatwhere doctorwhowhatwhere

    I'm betting on salad tongs.

  • shutmdown

    Hi, long time lurker here, due to my own personal dislike for how FUKU is/was all handled and hater of nuclear power ever since I can remember (probably since Chernobyl) 🙂 Anyway…just wanted to say that I'm really glad to be seeing progress more recently at FUKU. We all know in our minds that FUKU was definitely worse that Chernobyl and it took what…8 months to entomb that disaster and now a year and four mos. after FUKU, they are actually gearing up to do the same with one of the fuel pools. Since this was worse than Chernobyl, I'm thinking an extra 8 months or so more than Chernobyl entombment is probably not that bad given the condition of the reactor buildings. It calms me to see something finally being done there, at least. The way I see it is that we cannot do anything about the radiation exposure as common people, really, so at least we can be thankful that they are making progress with all of this and pray that progress continues at a good pace there from here on out. Thanks for this incredibly informative website 🙂

    • Sickputer

      SMD sez: "8 months to entomb that disaster [Chernobyl] and now a year and four mos. after FUKU, they are actually gearing up to do the same with one of the fuel pools."

      SP: I don't have any feeling of relief that they are starting a hazardous exploratory job at Unit 4. It's not an entombment procedure…it is a very risky attempt to see if they can extract a rod or two using methods never before attempted in the history of nuclear power plants. In my opinion they have a high chance of accelerating the collapse of spent fuel pond 4. If it does collapse then things will go from bad to utter insanity in central Japan. They are not even close to regaining control at Fukushima. I think entombing the entire island will be the final solution, but that will be later when China and Korea get angry about the radiation. America is 5,000 plus miles away and our government will continue to deny we are at risk and sabotage radiation testing.

      Chernobyl had a government that ruled with an iron fist and finding a million workers was no problem to accomplish for suicide jobs that often entailed scooping fuel rod fragments by hand into a wheelbarrow and rushing it into the remains of Unit 4. They did build a tomb quickly although it leaked immediately and is being replaced 26 years later with a second tomb on rails. We know that government (USSR) fell several years later. The Japanese government might repeat history in more ways than one than just a botched nuclear plant.

  • Reading the full NHK article they describe the #4 spent fuel pool thus: "The reactor's fuel pool contains 1,535 fuel rods — the highest number at the plant." later in the article they mention "a facility called a "common pool."" According to "the common spent fuel pool containing 6,375 fuel rods, located some 50 meters from reactor 4." So I'm not sure but maybe it is factual that #4 spent fuel pool has more fuel rods then #'s 1,2,3,5 and 6 but the common spent fuel pool also mentioned in article has way more.
    Finally article says "TEPCO says it cannot reveal the date of the test for security reasons." Doesn't make sense to me what security they are talking about save the security of Tepco executives criminal behinds.

    • Integrity Inspection of Dry Storage Casks and Spent Fuels at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. November 16, 2010.

      The report states "Approximately 700 spent fuel assemblies are generated every year" (p. 9)

      3,450 assemblies in each pool

      6291 assemblies in common spent fuel pool

    • Sickputer

      Mark sez.."Finally article says "TEPCO says it cannot reveal the date of the test for security reasons." Doesn't make sense to me what security they are talking"

      SP: Makes perfect sense to me. They know there is a good chance they could botch the procedure and turn the island into a fiery inferno from hell destroying all of Japan in a matter of months. Nobody wants to advertise when that fiasco might initiate.

      Tepco: "Oops! Sorry! We didn't kill the country…it was the tsunamis."

  • lam335 lam335

    I thought they needed to build the other structure around the #4 building before they could safely remove any of the rods. AND I though the new structure was supposed to include some sort of enclosure to minimize the amount of radioactive stuff that gets releases into the environment as the extraction is taking place. What is the point of removing a couple of "unused rods" before the other structure is built? Can this be done safely? Is the original structure strong enough to handle this process by itself (especially since it was just recently further burdened by a new 80-ton pool cover)?

  • razzz razzz

    The distinction with the common fuel pond holding the most spent fuel is that the pool is on the ground and not high in the air like 1,2,3,4,5&6. Also the common fuel pond supposedly holds fuel that is 3 or 4 years old or older hence all the fuel in it is cooler after spending years and years cooling down while awaiting the next step which is being moved to air cooling storage, also on site.

    Unit 4 is overloaded with fuel because of the stainless shroud replacement and maintenance the reactor was under going at the time of the great quake. The fuel in the reactor was completely removed and was temporary being stored in Unit 4's spent fuel pond along with the typically stored spent fuel cooling down and new assemblies awaiting to be loaded into the reactor to boil water.

    The spent fuel ponds were not designed to hold twice the normal weight i.e. typically new and used fuels… plus the an entire working reactor load. Shroud replacements were not envisioned when these Units were originally built.

    Oddly enough, new/unused fuel assemblies are not hot (you can actually handle them with no ill effects, only after the are irradiated do they begin to become 'hot' and 'spent' fuels. So, removing the new/unspent 200 or so fuel assemblies first is a good move.

    Unfortunately, the unknowns: 1. Are the fuels rods damaged in any way? 2. Will the racks just be pulled up and out or will debris lodge or lock them in? 3. Will the fuel pellets stay in place.

    Might need a…

    • hbjon hbjon

      A brand new atomic bomb is not hot either. With all the safety mechanisms in place one could touch it, climb on it, set up a place mat and eat dinner on it. Could the fuel really be in pristine condition after the buildings are blown to smithereens? It's kinda cool using the word smithereen, its not often we can use the word appropriately. Perhaps fuel rods are unsmithereenable?

    • Sickputer

      Razzz sez…"Unfortunately, the unknowns: Will the racks just be pulled up and out or will debris lodge or lock them in?"

      SP: Will they pull out some melted chunks and rip a new seam in the pond or cause the bulge in the wall to crack asunder? Questions, questions…

      I seriously doubt they are going to accomplish anything of worth in this risky procedure. It's all for show to the public. I expect them to quickly abandon this procedure. Maybe they will prove me wrong.

    • Fury Fury

      I disagree. They are designed to hold whatever weight can be put in them. Full.

  • Siouxx Siouxx

    Love the "security reasons" quote. Does this mean then that someone with a lot of money, who actually doesn't believe they are immortal/can live in a bunker for xthousand years/can be wafted off to another planet, has finally stumped up the cash to do the job? If so, Cheers mate but you are cutting it a bit fine and should sack all the acolytes who've been telling you everything was fine for the last fifteen months.

  • dodge

    Questions: How far is this "common spent fuel pool" from the present disaster? If the brittle rods survive removal, can they hold up to the transportation, and placement in the 'common pool'? Is this a new empty pool? Should the brittle rods shatter in placement, could they create a critical blob in the new pool? Is that pool, newly constructed? empty? Could this move place additional fuel at risk? What about populations near the new pool, and the populations along the route? Using a crane and trucking 2 at a time, with several pools needing to be emptied we are looking at a long process. It needs to be done, if possible, but it's a long road for them. No imagine the USA attempting to do this at our spent fuel pools, removing the waste — establishing a safe long term storage area, and moving our nuclear waste to it. Even if we were able to somehow reprocess/reuse and highly concentrate the waste for long term storage, this is a monumental task. Good luck nuclear industry… Good luck humanity.

  • razzz razzz

    A new building to be erected alongside Unit 4 will be stable enough to house all the new overhead equipment that replaces all the destroyed equipment normally used to remove the 'hot' and 'spent' fuels. But, they are still designing the new replacement equipment since it's a entirely new procedure, as you can imagine.

    They say it is a delicate operation to remove spent fuel and has to be done underwater or in water at all times as the water is a shield, a coolant and keeps radioactive particles suspended and not airborne. Depending on how 'spent' some fuels are, if exposed to air, will heat up and catch on fire all by themselves in about 15 minutes or so. A radioactive fire or aerosol.

    • Max1 Max1

      I suspect that off site they've been building the new addition to R4 and will re-assemble it onsite in short time, soon.

      • razzz razzz

        I want to see how they anchor the structure to the ground especially when it will be cantilevered to reach over to the pool. What if while drilling deep holes for the foundation they hit radioactive hot water?

        • flatsville

          >>>I want to see how they anchor the structure to the ground especially when it will be cantilevered to reach over to the pool<<<

          Perhaps the "building" will be conventional and only the equipment heads will be cantilevered and extended over the pool.

          That would reduce the engineering difficulty.

          It will be more than interesting to see what they come up with.

        • Fury Fury

          pump it out, filter it and drink it.

    • Fury Fury

      15 minutes can be a long time in many instances. with practice and doe carefully, it should take at most 5 min. to lift a bundle out and down into a carrying or movable storage tank full of water at ground level.

  • razzz razzz

    Was going to say, Might need a… vacuum hose to pickup the pieces.

    You can spend a lot of time looking for pictures and info on the web but the common spent fuel pond is about 50 meters west of Unit 4.

    The more time that passes the less decay heat the spent fuel puts out…

    I'm not sure anyone knows what is going to happen during (new) fuel removal from Unit 4. TEPCO doesn't know and neither do we.

    US like most of the rest of the world stores spent fuel on site, there is no where else to send it, no one wants it in their backyard (NIMBY).

    • Fury Fury

      why do you assume that long time nuclear material engineers dont know what is going to happen. do you think tey they know only as much as you do about their specialty? I assure you they know exactly what is and isn't going to happen. all they ned to do is find out what HAS happened and what has NOT happened so that they can know what to do and how to handle the rest of that stuff.

  • Professor Takeda of Chubu University believes the underground portion of unit 4 has been weakened considerably and that collapse of the building is likely.

    "As the current problem, you may as has been pointed out by some specialists, a pool of Unit 4 has become corrupted. As you can see from the photo of No.7 and No.6, 1st floor building that portion of Unit 4 have been destroyed a large extent is a reality. In other words, is supposed to blasting was done in the bottom part there is a underground nuclear reactor, Unit 4 of the building foundation itself is quite it should have been broken. In other words, you should have damaged underground portion considerably. Therefore, I think the possibility of the collapse of the building No. 4 is quite high. It is to set up a pillar to support the bottom of the pool, to top it all, it was encased in concrete the space established a post, may have been destroyed considerably when the basis of that portion multiplied by the blasting I have a. It has been removed, demolition and rapidly and part fifth floor of building No. 4 is not perhaps be because they're impossible quite that well go that weakening of the underground portion, to support the ground segment." (Japanese)

  • Radio VicFromOregon

    Looks like TEPCO is testing to see if they can air lift rods from the pool to smaller shielded containers on the open fifth floor for transport to the common pool rather than lowering a large waterfilled bucket into the SFP, which, Arnie pointed out, if it fell, would be…well…that. This other method will expose the rods to air briefly, but, the risk of heavy equipment falling into the pool is greatly reduced. This may be the smarter way.

    • Fury Fury

      and just how much would a large waer filled bucket weigh? Compared to teh fuel bundle? !!!! A fifth as much? thats only 20% additional weight.. any crane that would be used to lift the fuel bundles would be able to handle this easily.

  • apostrophes

    It looks like this is a test that will precede the construction of the "cover-up" building. There will be massive groundworks/piling for that which would take many weeks and occupy all the spare working space.

  • Andres Arce Andres Arce

    Could have the company yielded to the blogs' reports about the sinking condition of the building, and so the works have been hurried up ?

  • markww markww

    Class D liquid for radioactive fires and zirconium will protect the units into a transfer case. Mark

  • PhilipUpNorth philipupnorth

    Fuel Assembly Condition. My guess would be that this test is to assess the condition of the hot spent fuel assemblies (rather than cool new fuel assemblies). SFP4 was dewatered by a leak in the secondary pump in March, 2011. The fuel assemblies burned off and on over several days. It may well be that spent fuel assemblies are too fragile to be handled at all. Then an entirely new system would have to be developed to handle compromised fuel assemblies. Getting a close look at two spent fuel assemblies before construction of the crane structure would allow TEPCO to modify the design in order to handle the fuel assembly debris. (Perhaps they could even modify their design to be able to move an entire rack of fuel assemblies at a time, rather than try to move each fuel assembly out of its rack). Expect several video views and still camera closeups as the two test fuel assemblies are moved. They will be shooting this test from every possible angle.
    Vic: great point on handling fuel assemblies in air rather than handling a heavier water-filled container.
    razzz: good analysis on the problems of taking spent fuel assemblies out of water. This is why TEPCO makes the point that the container they will use for the test will keep the assemblies from going critical.
    Bobby1: get some sleep.
    ENEnewsers: many thanks for a great discussion.

    • Fury Fury

      " keep the fuel asemblies from going critical""??? those fuel assemblies CAN'T "go critical"" Unless they are put inside a reactor and MADE to go critical/..

  • jec jec

    Since TEPCO has already used a crane to lift off the TOP cover (16 tons steel SPF topping), and more such as people walking around Reactors 1 and 2…think they are already doing the action. Lift was caught by an ENENEWS blogger and posted on YouTube, along with the "smoke" coming from the pool."THE FOG KNOWS"–for those old time radio buffs…

  • chrisk9

    They will never lift any assemblies out of the water for even an instant=instant death for anyone around. Since the pool had fires did some fuel melt? Did they have a criticality in the pool? If that happened did that activate the new fuel also? What did the salt water do? Are the fuel tacks themselves damaged?

    So many questions unanswered that will affect the outcome of removing fuel. The fuel assemblies fit into the sfp storage racks with incredibly small clearances, getting them out if there is any damage will be very challenging or impossible.

    I certainly hope TEPCO is using other companies like General Electric to help them. GE has much more experience, and actually does most of the specialized underwater work for most utilites worldwide.They are much more accomplished than TEPCO.

  • Ivantheterrible111

    For Security Reasons … IS THIS A FRIGGIN COMEDY!!! If I were there when that statement was made, I would take the FOOL to the number 4 pool for a DUNK! THERE IS YOUR FRIGGIN SECURITY, MONKEY!!

    Now, comrades, if terrorists had brains … We would all be in Trouble. There is Absolutely Nothing to Fear! “FEAR THE GOVERNMENTS AND THE IDIOTS TALKING ABOUT SECURITY!”

    THE Terrorists Never Dosed the World in Iodine and Cesium! Who are the Real Terrorists?

  • richard richard

    at least it's not friday 13th there any more.

  • Ron

    QUESTION: If they can do this now, WHY couldn't they have done this 16 months ago, or at least much much sooner than this? ANSWER: They could have, they just didn't want to deal with it.

    This proves that TEPCO and the government have been criminally, negligently and knowingly allowing dangerous massive radioactive pollution of the people and the environment.

    BTW, while they are at it it would be advisable to remove the rods, or radioactive goop from the other reactors as well before they can't.

  • Ron

    This move is also an acknowledgement of the instability of the reactor building.

  • bincbom

    What "fuel rods"??

  • jackassrig

    If I had been doing this about 14 months ago, I would sawed and cut the SFP away from the containment. Then build a new pool around the old one. Get slings around the mess and do one massive lift with about four heavy lift cranes and sit the bitch on the ground. Of course none of this can be done now.

  • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

    How can they store something on the 5th floor when that floor no loner exists?

  • crazyjane61

    If they start changing up the weight distribution, doesn't that endanger the tank toward tipping since the building, and the ground around it, is not structurally sound???

  • NeverAnyDanger

    Maybe I missed something but aren't the "fuel rods" always supposed to be covered with water? How long can they be exposed to air? How close can workers get to them w/o being affected by the radiation.

    Isn't it possible the rods will crack and fall apart as they're being transferred? What if they pull one out, it gets stuck and can't be either pushed back in or pulled out?

    I really don't get this procedure. I'm so frustrated with the lack of information and real coverage of this disaster.

    Razz, I suggest they use an Oreck – it works great on my rugs and is easy to push. Maybe they could be equipped with a radiation filter.

    • razzz razzz

      Well, if the fuel assemblies begin to disintegrate when moved, TEPCO can always do what 'jackassrig' suggests just lower the entire fuel pool to the ground, put wheels on it and tow it away.

      And Unit 4 SFP is the easiest one to access. What's stopping them from unloading Units 5 & 6? Unit 2's building is still intact, can they unload 2's fuel pool or are the radiation levels to high to do work in there?