The idea of sending robots into conditions that humans would not survive is a very old concept. Robots don’t heed oxygen, food, or any other myriad of human requirements. They can also be treated as disposable, and they can also be radiation hardened, and they can physically fit into small spaces. And if you just happen to be the owner of a nuclear power plant that’s had multiple meltdowns, you need robots. A lot of them. And [Asianometry] has provided an excellent synopsis of the Robots of Fukushima in the video below the break.
Starting with robots developed for the Three Mile Island incident and then Chernobyl, [Asianometry] goes into the technology and even the politics behind getting robots on the scene, and the crossover between robots destined for space and war, and those destined for cleaning up after a meltdown.
The video goes further into the challenges of putting a robot into a high radiation environment. Also interesting is the state of readiness, or rather the lack thereof, that prompted further domestic innovation.
Obviously, cleaning up a melted down reactor requires highly specialized robots. What’s more, robots that worked on one reactor didn’t work on others, creating the need for yet more custom built machines. The video discusses each, and even touches on future robots that will be needed to fully decommission the Fukushima facility.
For another look at some of the early robots put to work, check out the post “The Fukushima Robot Diaries” which we published over a decade ago.