The impending fuel removal at Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 and a visit from the U.S. energy secretary highlighted the headlines from Japan this week.Recent developments related to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant severely damaged following Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami include:Government OKs Spent Fuel RemovalOn Wednesday, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority approved TEPCO's plan to begin removing spent fuel from unit 4. The reactor was defueled when the tsunami hit, but the subsequent hydrogen explosions and blackout left its spent fuel pool uncovered and uncooled in the early days of the crisis. TEPCO has erected a support structure next to the reactor building that will allow cranes to move the fuel. Workers have cleaned debris from the pool and also removed and studied two of its unused fuel assemblies last year to ensure they are robust enough to be transferred. TEPCO posted this video that shows how fuel assemblies will be lifted underwater into special casks that will be covered, lifted out by a second crane and moved to the plant's common spent fuel pool. NHK reported the work could begin as early as Nov. 8, but TEPCO did not confirm that date.Moniz Expects Further U.S. SupportAs Fukushima moves into a more complex phase of fuel removal and decommissioning, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he anticipates deeper cooperation between Japan, U.S. national labs and U.S. companies with nuclear expertise. In a speech in Japan reported by the Associated Press, he also cautioned against ignoring nuclear energy's potential as a clean source of base-load power. Moniz is scheduled to visit Fukushima today.
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