NHK, Nov. 18, 2013: The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun removing nuclear fuel from a storage pool at a damaged reactor building. Workers placed a special fuel transport container in the storage pool [...] At around 3PM on Monday, the workers started to hoist the unused fuel units into the steel container [...] debris in the pool of the Number 4 reactor building could obstruct the work. [...] The removal work requires extreme caution, as any damage to the units could release high-level radiation.
WSJ, Nov. 18, 2013: “We plan to begin the removal process from around 3 pm today, and work until around 7 pm,” said Tepco spokesman Tsuyoshi Numajiri. [...] The units are kept in a pool of cool water to prevent exposure to air, which can cause the radioactive material to heat up and could trigger a sustained nuclear reaction.
BBC, Nov. 18, 2013: [It's a critical issue] whether the casks remain watertight so the rods have no contact with air.
AFP, Nov. 18, 2013: Each rod contains uranium and a small amount of plutonium. If they are exposed to the air [...] they would start to heat up, a process that, left unchecked, could lead to a self-sustaining nuclear reaction – known as “criticality”. [...] Sceptics say with so many unknowables in an operation that has never been attempted under these conditions, there is potential for a catastrophe. Government modelling in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima disaster [...] suggested that an uncontrolled nuclear conflagration at Fukushima could start a chain reaction in other nearby nuclear plants. That worst-case scenario said a huge evacuation area could encompass a large part of greater Tokyo [...]
AP, Nov.18, 2013: [...] [Experts] raised concern about a major earthquake hitting during the removal work. Japanese nuclear engineers were on Monday preparing to move uranium and plutonium fuel rods at Fukushima [...] Experts have warned that slip-ups could quickly cause the situation to deteriorate. [...]
Kyodo News, Nov. 18, 2013: Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has said the work requires “great prudence” because the pools are strewn with small pieces of rubble [...] “The fuel has to be handled very carefully. There is a need to make sure that a fuel assembly is not pulled out (from the fuel rack) by force when it gets stuck because of the rubble,” he said.
Published: November 18th, 2013 at 3:40 am ET