OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Tokyo Electric Power Co. on July 28 started removing a canopy covering a damaged reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to prepare for the eventual extraction of spent nuclear fuel inside.
Around 7 a.m., workers using a giant crane lifted away the first of six canopy panels, each measuring 40 meters long and 7 meters wide, from the No. 1 reactor building.
The 30-minute removal of the panel left a large hole in the canopy through which steel beams on the damaged upper part of structure could be seen from above. Workers closely monitored radiation levels in the surrounding areas during the removal process.
The utility plans to remove the remaining five panels from next week.
The removal of the canopy will allow TEPCO to clear debris inside the building, possibly in the latter half of fiscal 2016. That process should pave the way for the removal of nuclear fuel rods from the spent fuel pool in the building.
Before removing the canopy panel, the utility sprayed the inside of the reactor building with liquid resin through holes drilled in the cover to prevent radioactive materials from being stirred up during the dismantling work.
TEPCO initially planned to start removing the canopy panels from the No. 1 reactor building in summer 2014, but the schedule was delayed because a large amount of radioactive substances was released into the environment when the utility removed debris from the No. 3 reactor building in August 2013.
Even after the anti-scattering resin was sprayed into the No. 1 reactor building in May, removal of the canopy panel was postponed by a problem inside the building.