News has been quiet from Fukushima these past few months and it appears after a series of preparations, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) removed a 20-ton piece of rubble – a damaged fuel handling machine (FHM) – from the fuel pool of Reactor 3’s building.

The biggest piece of the debris, 14 meters long, ended up lifted from the spent fuel pool with the help of two 600-ton cranes equipped with a special hook and clamps, TEPCO said. After the removal, workers carefully placed the damaged FHM on the ground.

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The operation is a key step for removal of 514 spent fuel assemblies from the pool which are still hot.

Before the one-hour-long operation, TEPCO had completed a number of preparatory works such as preventing oil leakage from FHM.

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“The successful completion of this complex task is a credit to the hard work and collaborative spirit of many people from many organizations who have worked together,” said Naohiro Masuda, Chief Decommissioning Officer.

Before the 2011 accident, the FHM would move nuclear fuel assemblies into the core of the reactor and move the spent ones to the spent fuel storage pool.

After lifting smaller debris TEPCO plans to start its fuel-removal operation not earlier than in January 2018 after installing special equipment on the reactor building, the Asahi Shimbun reports.

Fukushima nuclear disaster took place on March, 11, 2011 after an earthquake and then a tsunami damaged critical cooling systems which led to meltdowns of three of the six reactors.

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