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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Experts split on how to decommission Fukushima nuclear plant

What is actually going to take place at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, where word is that the four reactors that were crippled in the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami will eventually be decommissioned?
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) defines "decommissioning" as the process of removing spent fuel from reactors and dismantling all facilities. Ultimately, the site of a decommissioned reactor is meant to be reverted into a vacant lot.
In 1996, the then Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) -- now the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) -- finished decommissioning its Japan Power Demonstration Reactor. The decommissioning process of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant in the Ibaraki Prefecture village of Tokai began in 1998 and is set to end in fiscal 2020, while the No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear reactors at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Omaezaki are slated for decommissioning by fiscal 2036. Around the world, only around 15 nuclear reactors have thus far been dismantled.
The standard decommissioning process entails six major steps: 1. Remove spent fuel rods, 2. Remove radioactive materials that have become affixed to reactor pipes and containers, 3. Wait for radiation levels to go down with time, 4. Dismantle reactors and other internal vessels and pipes, 5. Dismantle the reactor buildings, and 6. Make the site into a vacant lot.
"Cleaning," "waiting," and "dismantling" are the three key actions in this process. Needless to say, this all needs to be done while simultaneously containing radioactive materials.

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