New video, images give closest look yet inside Fukushima reactor's damaged interior


New drone footage deep inside Fukushima's damaged reactor shows misshapen objects and displaced equipment, offering the closest look yet into its interior.

Key points:

  • Drone video footage and images captured by operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) show displaced control rods and "icicle-like" or "clump-like" objects hanging in the reactor's structural support.

  • TEPCO said it's unclear if the objects are melted fuel or equipment and would require radiation data to help determine this, reported the Associated Press.

  • The 12 images and a video released to the public highlight the challenges of removing fuel debris, which raises doubts about the plant's cleanup timeline.

Catch up:

  • On March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi plant was struck by a massive 14-meter tsunami that followed the Tohoku earthquake, also known as the “Great East Japan Earthquake.” This triggered a nuclear accident that resulted in meltdowns in three reactors and progressively contaminated groundwater. An estimated 880 tons of radioactive debris remain inside reactors No. 1, 2 and 3.

  • TEPCO's original plan was to start fuel debris removal within a decade of the 2011 meltdowns. However, technical difficulties have caused significant delays.

The details:

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  • For the first time since the tragedy, TEPCO sent miniature drones into the reactor's pedestal, directly below the core, to assess the damage. The images offer the closest look yet but could not reach the reactor's bottom due to low light.

  • The released images depict various objects, including components of the control rod drive mechanism, hanging from different parts of the reactor pedestal. Some objects appear to be icicle-like formations attached to fallen components.

  • TEPCO is looking for means to develop techniques for debris removal, a key part of the lengthy decommissioning process. However, despite advancements in drone technology, they were still unable to capture images of the reactor core's bottom due to darkness within the containment vessel.

  • TEPCO officials acknowledge the challenge of distinguishing between melted fuel and equipment solely based on the images. They said the lack of clarity in these images shows the difficulty of the task.

  • The lack of comprehensive knowledge about the reactors' interiors poses significant hurdles to the decommissioning process. Experts believe this can potentially prolong the cleanup timeline beyond the initially proposed 30-40 years.

What's next:

  • TEPCO intends to analyze the data obtained from the drone survey to develop strategies for the collection and removal of fuel debris from the reactors. Further investigations are needed to determine the nature of the debris and measure the radiation levels inside the reactor.


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