of the nuclear reactor, painted in yellow, of Unit 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant isobserved from its side with a T-Hawk drone Friday, April 15, 2011 in Okuma, FukushimaPrefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)Japan is expected to take more than 30 years to fully decommission crippled nuclear reactors at theFukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to a draft report compiled by the Nuclear SafetyCommission of Japan obtained by the Mainichi on Oct. 26.It is the first time for the government's body to officially state that it is expected to take "more than30 years" to decommission the troubled No. 1 to 4 nuclear reactors. According to the draft report,the work to remove spent nuclear fuel from nuclear fuel pools would begin sometime after 2015,while the work to remove melted nuclear fuel from the reactors would start sometime after 2022.The draft report is expected to be endorsed at a study meeting on Oct. 28 of experts on medium- andlong-term measures.At the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, there are a total of 1,496 spent nuclear fuel rods inthe No. 1 to 3 reactors, while there are 3,108 fuel rods in the spent nuclear fuel pools of the No. 1 to4 reactors. In order to actually decommission the reactors, those fuel rods must be recovered, cooleddown and stored under stable conditions for a long time.According to the draft report, the work to decommission the reactors is expected to start as early asnext year after a "cold shutdown" is achieved by the end of this year. In order to recover meltednuclear fuel from the reactors, robots and other means would be used to decontaminate the interior of the reactor buildings before repairing damaged parts of the containment vessels. Furthermore, inorder to block radiation, the entire containment vessels would be filled with water so that the work to recover melted nuclear fuel could be started sometime after 2022.Meanwhile, damage to the fuel in the spent nuclear fuel pools is relatively minor, but the existingcranes cannot be used because the reactor buildings, except for the one for the No. 2 reactor, were badly destroyed by hydrogen explosions. Therefore, new cranes have to be brought in to start torecover the fuels sometime after 2015 after fitting out the temporary storage facility installed near the No. 4 reactor.
In this March 24, 2011 file aerial photo, taken by a small unmanned drone and released by Air Photo Service, the damaged Unit 4 of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is seenin Okumamachi, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan. (AP Photo/ Air Photo Service)In light of the fact that it took about 20 years to recover all fuels at the Three Mile Island nuclear complex, the draft report said it was estimated to take "at least more than 30 years to complete themeasures to decommission" the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. In order todecommission the reactors as early as possible, it is necessary to 1) positively accept opinions fromexperts abroad, 2) respond flexibly if the plans do not work properly, 3) put priority on research anddevelopment essential for the actual work to be done on the spot, and 4) cultivate engineers at