Nuclear Engineer on Fukushima: Like ‘Pulling Cigarettes From a Crumpled Pack

Knock on wood, 22 nuclear fuel rod assemblies down, some 1498 more to go.

FUKUSHIMA PREFECTURE (INTELLIHUB) — In what has been called ‘one of the most dangerous operations in nuclear history’, the first cask containing 22 nuclear fuel rods has been successfully removed from a nuclear fuel cooling pool at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Facility.

After the cask containing the rods was removed it was placed onto a massive flatbed truck specially designed for the transport of such nuclear materials. The rods were successfully relocated to a newer and more protected nuclear cooling pool. reported, “Each fuel assembly contains 50 to 70 fuel rods – there are a total of 22 assemblies that have been transported today aboard a trailer to another, newer, storage pool on the final day of an operation that lasted four days, according to a statement by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), Reuters reports.

What used to be done by computer will now be an entirely manual process, because of the tilted position of the cooling pools, which was affected by the tsunami and earthquake that battered the power plant in 2011.

The reason is that computers are programmed only to respond to the exact position of a fuel rod. With those positions now offset, the operation is a painstaking manual process. Each time the fuel rods rub together or are subjected to shaking, the workers risk unleashing incredible amounts of radiation.

There are more than 1,500 potentially damaged fuel assemblies located in Reactor No. 4 – the most unstable part of the power plant. It was offline at the time of the 2011 catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, which is why, unlike the other three, its core didn’t go into meltdown. Instead, hydrogen explosions blew the roof off the building and severely damaged the structure – a wholly different problem. “[1]


Over 400 tones of radioactive debris will need to be removed from the damaged No. 4 reactor building in total in what one nuclear engineer has stated, it’s like ‘pulling cigarettes from a crumpled pack’.


[1] Fuel rod removal: Fukushima’s most dangerous operation yields first successes –

[2] Insight: After disaster, the deadliest part of Japan’s nuclear clean-up –

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)