Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has begun removing the panels of the temporary cover over the damaged reactor building of unit 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The cover - installed in October 2011 - is to be removed to so that rubble can be taken down from the top of the building in preparation for the removal of fuel from the unit's used fuel pool.
Tepco plans to begin preparations for its removal last week, which included drilling holes into the cover and spraying an agent to suppress dust scattering.
The removal of the cover is scheduled expected to take more than 12 months to complete. Tepco will then install equipment for handling the used fuel before strengthening the surrounding area for heavy machinery and rebuilding a new version of the cover. The entire process is planned to continue for some four years before the removal of used fuel actually begins.
Decommissioning and fuel removal activities are more advanced at units 3 and 4 of the plant. At unit 4, some 1342 out of 1533 fuel assemblies have so far been transferred from the unit's fuel pool to a central storage pool on the site.