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The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima power plant on Monday began the delicate operation of removing atomic fuel from inside a building housing one of the reactors that melted down in 2011.

This represents the first time the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has pulled out fuel from inside a highly contaminated building containing the melted-down reactor, and comes four years behind schedule. The operation was done using remote-controlled equipment due to high radiation levels.

TEPCO estimates it will take two years to remove 566 units of nuclear fuel, most of which are already spent. For the time being, engineers will not yet attempt to extract molten nuclear fuel that remains deep inside the mangled reactor.

This is considered the most difficult part of the massive clean-up operation and is not expected to begin until 2021.

Via The Japan Times