Were it to go ahead, the process from building to actual debris removal would be lengthy and would likely affect total decommissioning costs, currently pegged at about $57.45 billion. In the aftermath of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, nuclear fuel cooling processes failed at the Fukushima plant’s reactors 1 through 3, causing the fuel to melt and re-solidify into radioactive debris mixed with concrete, metal and other materials present in the reactors. Debris removal is the operator’s most challenging issue in the Fukushima plant cleanup. Some 880 tons of the radioactive waste material is estimated to have been created by the nuclear meltdown across the three reactors. The new submersion method, which is currently expected to be applied to the No. 3 reactor, would involve building a strong, pressure-resistant structure, much like a ship’s hull or a plane’s body, completely encapsulating the reactor, including underground. The structure could then be filled with water, and removal work would take place from the top.
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