TEPCO workers successfully removed the first fuel rods from the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and transferred them into portable casks on Monday. Those who have been following the follies of the power company should be pleased that a meltdown did not occur.
These are just the first of many fuel rods that will be removed from the plant in the next year though. By the end of 2014, TEPCO will move some 1331 spent fuel rod assemblies and 202 unused assemblies will be moved from reactor 4 into portable casks as the plant is decommissioned. The rods moved on Monday are unused (read: less fragile and easier to move) rods from the plant's Number 4 reactor which was prioritised since its located on the fifth floor of a building with structural damage. It's a tricky manoeuvre too, since the rods must remain submerged in water at all times lest they overheat and cause a meltdown.
Challenging as it sounds, TEPCO president Naomi Hirose says that "moving spent fuel into long-term storage is a routine task that TEPCO has taken more than 1200 times over the years." The situation at Fukushima is obviously exceptional, of course, given the damage caused by the catastrophic earthquake and on-going complications, like the semi-regular spilling of radioactive water. Nevertheless, progress is progress. Said Hirose, "The success of the extraction process therefore represents the beginning of a new and important chapter in our work." God knows TEPCO could use a fresh start. [Motherboard]