Tokyo Electric Power Company posted an animated video yesterday, in which they soothingly show how they intend to remove the spent fuel rod assemblies from the storage pools in Reactor 4.  Reactor 4 was off-line at the time of the 2011 quake and tsunami.  It is the easiest of the reactors in which removal can be attempted.


Fukushima reactor

Fukushima Reactor 4

Some concern has been raised regarding how accurate the animation is regarding the ease of removing some of the assemblies.  Some photos seem to show some of the assemblies tilted to such an angle that the proposed method would not work, or could lead to problems during the process.

Most news reports on the upcoming project seem positive.  CNN, however, asks five questions.  Most intriguing:

5. How do you stop running out of skilled labor?

Workers within the Fukushima nuclear power plant have a radiation exposure limit. Once they reach this limit they can no longer work on site and new workers need to be found. As time goes on, more experienced workers will reach their exposure limits, sparking concerns that available workers will have decreased skill levels.

Meanwhile, on the subject of unskilled workers, they appear to have already run out of them:

When tons of radioactive water leaked from a storage tank at Fukushima’s crippled nuclear power plant and other containers hurriedly put up by the operator encountered problems, Yoshitatsu Uechi was not surprised. He wonders if one of the tanks he built will be next.

He’s an auto mechanic. He was a tour-bus driver for a while. He had no experience building tanks or working at a nuclear plant, but for six months last year, he was part of the team frantically trying to create new places for contaminated water to go.

Uechi and co-workers were under such pressure to build tanks quickly that they did not wait for dry conditions to apply anti-rust coating over bolts and around seams as they were supposed to; they did the work even in rain or snow. Sometimes the concrete foundation they laid for the tanks came out bumpy. Sometimes the workers saw tanks being used to store water before they were even finished.

image: the framework for containment and removal over reactor four by Mathijs Jansin