New Robots To Explore New Areas Of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant

During a press event on January 23rd, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) demonstrated two new robots at the mock-up facility at Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Naraha Center for Remote Control Technology Development (NARREC). As pictured by AP, one is a snake-like robot that should be able to reach very inaccessible areas, while four flying drones will be the first to enter the containment vessel of the Unit 1 reactor for inspection.

The flying drone to be used at Fukushima Daiichi's Unit 1 building. (Credit: Daisuke Kojima/Kyodo News via AP)
The flying drone to be used at Fukushima Daiichi’s Unit 1 building. (Credit: Daisuke Kojima/Kyodo News via AP)

These flying drones are 20 cm across, weigh 185 grams each, and were adapted from an existing model that’s used for boiler inspections. At the Naraha Town facility, operators were able to practice flying it into a copy of the Unit 1’s containment vessel via the piping. As the most heavily damaged unit at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, engineers are interested to learn the details of the fuel and debris that has fallen to the bottom of the vessel so that the clean-up and decontamination steps can be planned.

Most of the current work inside the Fukushimi Daiichi reactor buildings is performed by robots, with the TEPCO gallery providing an overview of the wide range of the types used so far.

One of the first was the PackBot, from US-based iRobot, with many more following for a variety of tasks, from inspection to debris clearing and even dry ice-based decontamination.

The Robots Of Fukushima: Going Where No Human Has Gone Before (And Lived)

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.

Continue reading “The Robots Of Fukushima: Going Where No Human Has Gone Before (And Lived)”

Global Radiation Montoring And Tracking Nuclear Disasters At Home

Many of us don’t think too much about radiation levels in our area, until a nuclear disaster hits and questions are raised. Radiation monitoring is an important undertaking, both from a public health perspective and as a way to monitor things like weapon development. So why is it done, how is it done, and what role can concerned citizens play in keeping an eye on things?

Continue reading “Global Radiation Montoring And Tracking Nuclear Disasters At Home”

The Fukushima Robot Diaries

After the terrible tragedy in Fukushima, the cleanup and damage assessment has begun. A robot operator, known only as [S.H.] has decided to write a blog about their efforts.  As pictured above, they are using [iRobot] models, including the [510 Packbot], and the [710 Warrior].

Since cleanup efforts started, [S.H.] was posting on his or her blog daily.  After word of this blog started getting out via various social media outlets, the blog was mysteriously taken down. The blog was at times critical of elements of the cleanup effort, but it’s unknown why the disappearance happened. Efforts to reach [S.H.] were unsuccessfull according to [IEEE].

Fortunately, before the takedown, [IEEE]’s [Erico Guizzo] decided to make a copy of the posts. These have been translated into English and portions are now available at the link listed above. Be sure to check out robot training video after the break. Continue reading “The Fukushima Robot Diaries”