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2 Nov, 2013 19:39

TEPCO accepts US offer to aid dangerous Fukushima cleanup

TEPCO accepts US offer to aid dangerous Fukushima cleanup

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has accepted Washington’s offer to help with the cleanup and decommissioning of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The move comes as TEPCO prepares for the major operation of removing fuel rods from Unit 4.

TEPCO president Naomi Hirose said the decision was made Friday when US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz visited the nuclear plant.

“Secretary Moniz and I became consistent through our talking today with the necessity of further strengthening cooperation, to contribute to the nuclear power and decommissioning industry not only between the two countries but throughout the world, by sharing and accumulating technology and knowledge towards the stability and decommissioning of the power station,” Hirose said in a statement published on TEPCO’s website.

In 2012, Japan and the US created a bilateral commission to strengthen engagement on civil nuclear issues.

A Japan-US commission is set to meet in Washington, DC on Monday to exchange opinions on Fukushima emergency response and regulatory issues.

TEPCO’s president said he has “high hopes” that Japan will “benefit from US to experience and expertise at Fukushima Daiichi."

"We will work together to tackle many challenges toward decommissioning,"
Hirose said in an interview with Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

On Friday, US Energy Secretary Moniz visited the crippled Fukushima plant to inspect preparations to remove fuel rods from a storage pool at Unit 4.

Escorted by Hirose, the US official also visited other facilities at the plant, including storage tanks for contaminated water and radioactive water treatment units.

"It appears that spent nuclear fuel will begin to be removed from Unit 4 as scheduled in mid-November,"
said Moniz, the highest ranking US official to visit Fukushima since a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused a series of nuclear meltdowns at the plant.

The fuel removal at Unit 4 is said to be the toughest and most dangerous operation for TEPCO; one wrong move could result in horrific quantities of radiation being released into the atmosphere or cause an explosion many times worse than the original disaster.

Reactor 4 contains 10 times more Cesium-137 than Chernobyl did. Scientists have warned that another nuclear disaster could be the beginning of an ultimate catastrophe for the planet. The mid-November fuel removal operation will be just the first step in a decommissioning process that is expected to take decades.

Moniz has stated that the cleanup operation “has global significance” and that “we all have a direct interest in seeing that the next steps are taken well, efficiently and safely.”