One of the first images of the melted nuclear fuel at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the lower part of a control rod mechanism inside reactor Unit Three, revealed on 21 July 2017. Photo: TEPCO / AFP

23 July 2017 (BBC News) – An underwater robot has captured what is believed to be the first images of melted nuclear fuel deposits inside Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator Tepco says.

Large amounts of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps in layers were seen underneath its unit three reactor.

If confirmed, it would be a major milestone in the clear-up operation. […]

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said that the images - revealed on Friday - were the first "high likely" sighting of melted fuel since the 2011 disaster.

"There is a high possibility that the solidified objects are mixtures of melted metal and fuel that fell from the vessel," a spokesman said.

Some of the objects appeared like icicles hanging around a control rod mechanism, which is attached to the bottom of the reactor's pressure vessel holding the core, the company said.

According to the Japan Times, fuel rod assemblies contained in the pressure vessel melted into a puddle and burned through the bottom after the tsunami six years ago.

Lumps of material that appeared to have melted and re-solidified near the wall of the pedestal, a concrete structure supporting the pressure vessel, were also captured on camera.

The company said more time was needed to analyse the debris further.

The deposits were found underneath the core inside the primary containment vessel of Fukushima's unit 3 reactor. [more]

'Melted nuclear fuel' found at Fukushima

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