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Possible nuclear fuel debris sighted under damaged Fukushima reactor

The operator of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power station on
Monday found beneath the plant's No. 2 reactor what could be nuclear
fuel debris left from the meltdown disaster in March 2011.

Images of a black mass and deposits were captured by a camera
during an inspection of the reactor containment vessel in the morning
and released in the afternoon by Tokyo Electric Power Company
Holdings Inc.

If confirmed to be such debris, its sighting could shed light on
the actual condition of melted fuel inside a damaged reactor for the
first time.

"If melted nuclear fuel was captured, it would be a major step
for the decommissioning work" at the plant, said Yoshiyuki Ishizaki,
head of TEPCO's Fukushima arm.

The utility conducted the latest inspection using a remotely
controlled camera attached to the end of a 10.5-meter-long telescopic
arm and found the mass on a grating structure just beneath the
pressure vessel inside the containment vessel.

The No. 2 reactor is one of three reactors at the six-reactor
Fukushima Daiichi plant that suffered meltdowns after a powerful
earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, knocked out their cooling

The inspection is to prepare for a probe using a robot equipped
with a camera. The robot will be deployed by mid-February to help
inspectors better understand where the nuclear fuel debris is located
and to work toward removing it. (Jan. 30)