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Fukushima robot finds lava-like 'melted fuel deposits'

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By Emma Beswick
Fukushima robot finds lava-like 'melted fuel deposits'

An underwater robot captured the first images of what are believed to be melted nuclear fuel deposits inside Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, according to its operator Tepco.

Six years on from a massive nuclear disaster, accumulations of lava-like layers were found under the stricken plant’s unit three reactor.

Measuring as thick as one metre and located in a structure called the pedestal inside the unit’s primary containment vessel, Tepco says that it is “highly likely” this was a sighting of melted fuel.

A three-day investigation of the unit three reactor ended yesterday (July 22).

If the findings are confirmed, this would be a milestone in the site’s clear-up operation.

Locating and analysing the fuel in the plant’s three reactors is an essential step in the decommissioning process.

Robots will play a big part, as areas of the plant remain highly contaminated.

Earlier searches in Fukushima’s other two reactors have so far been fruitless.

It would take some time to analyse the debris and create a plan to extract them, said TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto.