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Japan plans nuclear reactor meltdown to help prevent another Fukushima disaster

TEPCO via AFP - Getty Images

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, transfers fuel rods from crippled unit four reactor building to a different pool at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Nuclear scientists in Japan are planning a controlled reactor meltdown in the hope of learning how to prevent disasters like the one at the Fukushima power plant in 2011, according to local media reports.

Using a scaled down version of a nuclear reactor, Tomoyuki Sugiyama, a senior scientist at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, told MSN Sankei that scientists "want to help improve the accuracy of the Fukushima accident analysis" using the data from their experiment.

"We want to study exactly how meltdowns happen and apply what we will learn to help improve ways to deal with severe accidents in the future," another spokesman for the government-backed engineering agency told Agence France Presse.

The experiment will test a small fuel rod in a very rapid fission process. The project will begin sometime later this year, the spokesman said.

The Fukushima nuclear plant was crippled after a magnitude-9 earthquake followed by a huge tsunami sparked three nuclear meltdowns. As many as 300,000 people were forced to flee or voluntarily left their homes. 

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company or TEPCO, also said nuclear-contaminated water spilled into the sea. Scientists are still recording nuclear radiation surrounding the plant and in the water.

The tsunami swept debris far inland and also out to sea -- with some reaching the west coast of the U.S. months and years later.

More than 18,000 people died in the triple disaster.

AP

View side-by-side the progress that Japan has made since the tsunami and earthquake in March 2011.