Photo/IllutrationThe image shows what is believed to be the remains of melted nuclear fuel that seeped through the grating below the pressure vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Jan. 30 it may have finally pinpointed the location of melted fuel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, nearly six years after the triple meltdown unfolded there.

If confirmation is made, it would represent a breakthrough in the daunting task of decommissioning the stricken nuclear plant.

A remote-controlled camera fitted on a long pipe detected black lumps on grating in the lower part of the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the plant early on Jan. 30, TEPCO said.

The wire-mesh grating is located below the pressure vessel of the reactor. The lumps were not there before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, caused the nuclear disaster, according to TEPCO.

The utility plans to determine whether the lump is melted fuel based on images and radiation levels taken by an investigative robot and other data. The robot, called “Sasori” (scorpion) and fitted with two cameras, a dosimeter and a temperature gauge, will be sent into the No. 2 reactor containment vessel next month.

High radiation levels have hampered efforts at the nuclear plant to determine the condition and location of melted nuclear fuel.

TEPCO tried--and failed--three times to locate melted fuel using an industrial endoscope at the No. 2 reactor.

The latest investigation inside the No. 2 reactor began on Jan. 26 to locate the melted fuel.

The company is preparing to devise a method to retrieve the melted fuel in fiscal 2018 as part of the decommissioning work.