The company says it now needs time to conduct a test run.
(So......, test runs were not originally scheduled ......)
From Kyodo News (11/5/2013):
Removal of fuel to be delayed at Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 4, to add a test run
Kyodo News found out on November 3 by talking to people involved that TEPCO will conduct a test to verify the safety of the work using the actual container to transport the fuel [assemblies] before they start removing the fuel [assemblies] from the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The test will take several days including preparation, and the removal of fuel which was slated to start as early as November 8 will be delayed by one to two weeks.
The building cover for Reactor 4 with the crane for removing the fuel has been completed, but no test run has been done.
I can't really blame TEPCO other than to say they should grow some backbone to say no to the meddling by the national government and LDP.
LDP politicians including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Minister of Economy Toshimitsu Motegi have made a lot of noise demanding TEPCO do everything "ahead of schedule" and "accelerate".
Removal of fuel assemblies, first unused (new) fuel assemblies then used fuel assemblies, was not scheduled to start until 2014. The LDP government, installed after the Lower House election in December 2012, has been eager to give the impression to the gullible portion of the populace and to the world outside Japan that it is totally in charge, that things are going so well under their leadership. One of the ways they used to give that impression was to unilaterally declare, out of the blue, that the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident would be now dealt with at an accelerated pace, with everything being done ahead of schedule, including removing the corium from the broken reactors.
Despite huge misgivings of the workers at the plant and people who have followed the accident, TEPCO headquarters dutifully obliged. Plant safety and worker safety be damned.
But it is not just test runs that were missing. Independent journalist Ryuichi Kino tweeted a horror two days ago:
Removal of debris will be done through the night, from the evening till the morning of the next day. What an enormous task it will be.
That means TEPCO hasn't removed debris that fell inside the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool, even though they have created a detailed SFP debris map. Compared to Reactor 3's SFP, Reactor 4's SFP looks relatively clean, and not a whole lot of huge, awkward pieces of debris are in the pool. But if what Kino says is true, TEPCO will have the workers clear the debris from the pool all night, enough to carry out the removal of fuel assemblies next morning. And repeat this day in and day out.
In other words, TEPCO continues the accident cleanup haphazardly, as it has been doing since the day 1 of the accident.
But TEPCO cannot say no to the authorities stronger than them. They could have said to the government, "No we are not going to accelerate the removal of fuel assemblies. We will first remove the debris completely from the pool, then we will carry out dry runs to make sure things will go smoothly. Only then we will start removing the fuel assemblies."
But back in March 2011, TEPCO couldn't even take much-needed car batteries from the stores, and they couldn't bring the batteries made for the plant because they didn't have a government permit to travel on the highway (see my post from October 2012). So it is too much to ask, I know.