Tokyo, Jul 23 (EFE).- The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan has detected what appears to be melted fuel and debris at the base of reactor number 3 during the latest examination of the unit's interior conducted with a robot.
The aquatic robot introduced inside the plant's reactor took photos of the "likely melted materials that are consolidated, some fallen substances such as grating and the sediments" during its third incursion on Saturday, said Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in a statement at the end of the operation.
The robot had detected apparent remains of melted fuel a day earlier, while examining the area just below the supportive reactor vessel and captured images of an orange substance in a device that operates the fuel control rods and some icicles that are seemingly of the same material.
TEPCO said "the conditions inside the pedestal will be examined precisely based on the image data obtained through the consecutive explorations" to figure out how to remove residues and proceed with the decommissioning of the plant.
The remote-controlled aquatic robot was introduced on Wednesday in reactor number 3, in an effort to locate fuel debris inside, an important step in the decommissioning process.
Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced partial nuclear meltdown due to the failure of the cooling system after an earthquake and tsunami in Mar. 2011.
Obtaining the exact status of the radioactive fuel rods is essential to handling and removing them.
Dismantling reactor No. 3 has been complicated by the extreme level of radioactivity inside the vessel; it has the highest level of radioactive water among the three damaged reactors.
It is believed that a large part of the uranium dioxide and MOX (a mixture of uranium and plutonium oxide) rods of the reactor melted as a result of the accident and ended up at the bottom of the vessel.
The robot was previously introduced by the company to investigate the inside of the other two reactors but failed to assess the exact state of the fuel debris owing to technical errors. EFE
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