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24 Jul 2017

Fukushima: Robot captures first images of melted nuclear fuel

Fukushima power plant clean-up operation

The first images of what is believed to be the melted nuclear fuel deposits inside Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant have been captured by an underwater robot.

The images show large amounts of solidified lava-shaped rocks and lumps in layers under the plant's unit three reactor.

If confirmed, the images represent a significant milestone in the clean-up operation.

In context

Fukushima power plant clean-up operation


Fukushima disaster worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl

In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi power plant was hit by a tsunami causing the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Over 200,000 were evacuated from their homes over concerns that flooding of the three reactors could cause nuclear contamination.

The tsunami killed over 18,500 people. However, the Fukushima disaster did not directly cause any deaths.

The damaged reactors still contain highly contaminated parts.


Images may be of reactor's control rods, pressure vessel

Robotics are playing a major role in locating the fuel debris, crucial to the decommissioning process, which will likely take decades.

The images could show the reactor's control roads and pressure vessel.

"There is a high possibility that the solidified objects are mixtures of melted metal and fuel that fell from the vessel," said Tepco, the company operating the plant about the latest finding.

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Tepco needs time to analyze photos of debris

The recent images were captured by a small, remote-controlled underwater robot nicknamed "Little Sunfish" after a three-day investigation. Tepco said it needs more time to analyze the photos of the debris.

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