Japan Finds More Missing Nuclear Fuel at Bottom of Fukushima

(Bloomberg) -- Japan captured pictures and pinpointed the location of more melted nuclear fuel inside of the wrecked Fukushima power plant, a small step in the 8 trillion-yen ($72 billion) clean up of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., owner of the plant, took pictures of deposits near the bottom of the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, which it believes shows melted fuel debris, said Takahiro Kimoto, an official at the company. This is the second time in almost seven years since its triple meltdown that Tepco, as the utility is known, pinpointed melted fuel during a search of the reactors.

“We can see the handle of a fuel assembly in the debris, so we are quite certain that it is surrounded by melted fuel,” Kimoto told reporters in Tokyo on Friday. “We were able to get very important information, which we can use to determine a way to remove the fuel.”

The discovery will help the nation devise a plan for removing the fuel, which is slated to start in 2021. High radiation levels and difficult terrain inside the reactors has made it impossible for humans to enter and even deadly for robots.

The company must analyze the information it gathered on Friday before definitively determining if it is melted fuel, according to Kimoto.

The latest search was conducted by a camera lowered from a pipe through the side of the containment vessel. An attempt last year to use a robot to survey inside the reactor failed. In July, Tepco took the first pictures of what’s likely melted fuel at the bottom of the containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.