Can reactor fuel debris be safely removed from Fukushima Daiichi?

Decommissioning and clean-up are ongoing at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP); however, many difficult problems remain unaddressed. Chief amongst these problems is the retrieval and management of fuel debris. Fuel debris is the name given to the solidified mixture of melted nuclear fuel and other materials that now lie at the base of each of the damaged reactors (reactor Units 1-3). This material is highly radioactive and it has potential to generate enough neutrons to trigger successive nuclear fission reactions (uranium-235 breaks into two elements after capturing neutrons, emitting enormous amounts of energy, radiation, and more neutrons). Successive fission reactions would present a serious safety and material management risk.

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