The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant finally has been able to start clearing rubble at the Number 1 reactor.

As a result, workers will remove nuclear fuel from its storage pool as they continue the decommission process.

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Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on Monday started vacuuming finer debris scattered over the spent fuel storage pool in the upper part of the building.

The reactor is one of three that suffered a meltdown following the earthquake and tsunami March 11, 2011.

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After the disaster, a hydrogen explosion destroyed the reactor’s roof and iron framework.

As it stands right now the fuel pool is covered with about 1,500 tons of rubble, which has remained an obstacle for workers trying to remove 392 units of spent and unspent nuclear fuel.

TEPCO said it has taken steps to prevent the spread of radioactive dust before starting the rubble clearance. The operator says it will stop the work immediately if monitoring detects the spread of such dust.

Under a revised decommission plan last year, TEPCO plans to start removing nuclear fuel rods from the reactor’s storage pool in fiscal 2023, which is three years behind the original schedule.

TEPCO plans to finish removing the debris, which includes a mix of molten nuclear fuel and internal structural materials, by the end of March 2022.

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