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Fukushima disaster: Robot finds possible melted nuclear fuel

Lava-like rocks were spotted underneath one of the damaged reactors Lava-like rocks were spotted underneath one of the damaged reactors

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.

The power plant was hit by a tsunami in 2011, causing the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

More than 200,000 people were forced to leave their homes because of nuclear contamination concerns when three reactors failed at the plant after it was flooded.

Parts of the damaged reactors are still highly contaminated, with radiation and robotics playing a crucial part in the clean-up.

Locating the fuel debris in each of the damaged reactors is an important part of the decommissioning process, which is expected to take decades.

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.

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