Japan’s government said on Wednesday that it will take as many as 40 years to clean up and fully decommission a nuclear plant that went into meltdown after it was struck by a huge tsunami.
Nuclear crisis minister Goshi Hosono acknowledged that decommissioning three wrecked reactors plus spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was an “unprecedented project,” and that the process was not “totally foreseeable.”
“But we must do it even though we may face difficulties along the way,” Hosono said at the release of a lengthy roadmap on the process.
Trade Minister Yukio Edano promised that authorities would move through the process “firmly while ensuring safety at the plant.” He also vowed to pay attention to the concerns of tens of thousands of residents displaced when the plant was knocked out by Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami, spawning the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl accident in 1986.
Under the plan, approved earlier on Wednesday following consultation with experts and nuclear regulators, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. will start removing spent fuel rods within two years from their pools located on the top floor of each of their reactor buildings.
After that is completed, TEPCO will start removing the melted fuel, most of which is believed to have fallen to the bottom of the core or even down to the bottom of the larger, beaker-shaped containment vessel, a process that is expected to be completed 25 years from now.
The location and conditions of the melted fuel is not exactly known. Completely decommissioning the plant would require five to 10 more years after the fuel debris removal, making the entire process up to 40 years, according to the roadmap.