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November 18, 2013 AT 4:04 AM
The operator of Japan's wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant took the first step on Monday in the long and hazardous process of decommissioning the facility, extracting a fuel rod from its container for later removal. Tokyo Electric Power Co said it transferred the rod to a steel cask within the same cooling pool in a badly damaged reactor building, beginning the delicate and unprecedented task of removing 400 tonnes of highly irradiated spent fuel from that reactor. Tepco estimates that removing all the rods from the reactor will take a year, although some experts say that is an ambitious target.