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Fukushima clean-up delayed again in Japan

THE removal of thousands of hazardous spent fuel units at the Fukushima nuclear complex has been delayed again in a new clean-up roadmap announced by the Japanese government today.

The government and the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), are holding to a 30-40 year timescale to complete the clean-up of the Fukushima Dai-ichi site, which was wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

More than 4,700 units of fuel rods remain at the three melted reactors and two others that survived the disaster.

They pose a high risk because their storage pools are uncovered and a loss of water in another major disaster could cause the fuel rods to melt, releasing a massive amount of radiation. 

Initial targets were to remove all fuel rods by last year, but that has now been postponed by a decade as authorities say debris must be cleared and a huge roof installed to contain radioactive dust.

Fuel rods will begin being cleared from Unit 2 only in 2024 and in Unit 1 in 2027.

Tepco is also struggling with the storage of 1.2 million tons of radioactive water kept in 1,000 tanks at the plant.

The volume grows by 170 tons a day as water is used to cool the melted fuel in the reactors, but Tepco says it will hit its storage limit in the middle of 2022.

The government hopes to treat the water sufficiently so that it can be released into the sea or air, but doing so could prompt a public backlash and put the region’s agricultural and fishing sectors at risk.

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