Fukushima Operators Begin Super-Delicate Stage

Removing reactor covers is next step in decades-long decommissioning process
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2015 6:33 AM CDT
Fukushima Operators Begin Super-Delicate Stage
A worker in a protective suit and mask looks at tanks under construction to store radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, March 10, 2014.   (AP Photo/Toru Hanai, Pool)

It's going to take decades to completely decommission the Fukushima nuclear power plant, but a critical step in that process began in earnest today, reports NBC News. One of the six 136-foot covers draped over one of the plant's nuclear reactors to keep radioactive materials from seeping out is being painstakingly removed. Tepco officials say it will take till the end of 2016 to pry all six covers off, and till at least 2020 to remove the nearly 300 spent fuel rods lurking underneath. The project, which was supposed to commence last July, was previously postponed because of fears of radiation escaping.

"For the safety of Fukushima's residents, we would like the work to proceed with extra care," says the chief of a group of monitors overseeing the project. The total cost and time for the entire decommissioning assignment: tens of billions of dollars over 30 years or so, NBC notes. Meanwhile, the Japanese government today approved an increase in compensation payments to Tepco to a total of $57.2 billion, Reuters reports. That's $7.7 billion added onto the $49.5 billion in taxpayer-funded aid that Tepco had previously been approved to receive. (Check out more details about the decommissioning project on Tepco's dedicated website.)

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