Photos taken from inside the melted Fukushima reactor show damage, but leave many questions unanswered

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TOKYO (AP) — Images taken by miniature drones from inside the badly damaged reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant show displaced control equipment and distorted materials, but leave many questions unanswered as the difficult task of shutting down the plant continues. Let’s underline.

The 12 photos released by the plant’s operator are the first pictures inside the main structural support in the primary containment vessel of the hard-hit No. 1 reactor, called the pedestal, which is the area directly beneath the reactor’s core. Officials had long hoped to reach the area so they could examine the core and molten nuclear fuel that dripped there when the plant’s cooling system was damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Earlier attempts with robots had been unable to reach this area. A two-day investigation using small drones was completed last week by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, or TEPCO, which released the photos on Monday.

About 880 tons of highly radioactive molten nuclear fuel remains inside the three damaged reactors. TEPCO is attempting to learn more about its location and condition to facilitate its removal so the plant can be shut down.

The high-definition color images captured by the drone show brown objects of various shapes and sizes hanging at different places on the pedestal. Parts of the control-rod drive mechanism, which controls the nuclear chain reaction, and other equipment associated with the core were dislodged.

TEPCO officials said they were unable to tell from the images whether the hanging pieces were melted fuel or melted equipment without obtaining other data such as radiation levels. Drones did not carry dosimeters to measure radiation because they had to be light and maneuverable.

Officials said drone cameras could not see the bottom of the reactor core, partly because the containment vessel was in darkness. He said information from the investigation could help future investigations of molten debris, which is important in developing technologies and robots to remove it.

But the huge amount that remains unknown about the interior of the reactors shows how difficult this will be. Critics say the 30–40-year target set by the government and TEPCO for cleanup of the plant is overly optimistic.

The challenging process of decommissioning has already been delayed for years due to technical hurdles and lack of data.

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