Utility begins 2-year effort to remove fuel rods at Fukushima nuclear plant

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Electric authorities began removing spent fuel rods Monday from the damaged reactor at Japan's Fukushima power station, eight years after its core melted down in one of the world's worst nuclear accidents.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. began using a remotely guided robotic arm to remove the rods from the storage pool, where they've been since the 2011 accident. Monday marked the beginning of the utility's mission to remove a total of 566 nuclear fuel assemblies. The entire process is expected to last two years.

The company will transfer the rods to another storage pool. The presence of fuel rods in reactors No. 1, 2 and 3 are preventing the utility from scrapping the damaged reactors. Officials began removing rods from reactor No. 3 Monday. Similar efforts for the other two will begin in 2023, the utility said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toured the Fukushima complex Monday for the first time since 2013 to survey reconstruction progress. His visit came after his 2020 Olympic minister resigned last week over controversial comments related to the disaster.

"The government will do its utmost to rebuild [this area]," Abe said after his visit. "The state will continue to stand at the forefront of the decommissioning work and the containment of radioactive water (trapped in the plant]."

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