Robots Lend Hand In Fukushima Nuke Plant Cleanup
It looks like robots are at the ready to do some serious cleanup.
Nine electronic teams stepped forward last week to introduce robotic assistant tools to attempt to clean up the Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan. The plant was severely damaged and suffered nuclear meltdowns and radiation leakage following a pair of natural disasters, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, back in March 2011.
The highlight of the nine offered projects was a robotic suit made by Cyberdyne, originally created as a tool that would help the elderly. However, the team has since converted it to an assistive tool for nuclear cleanup, complete with body plates that protect from incoming gamma rays, sensors that indicate radiation levels, a built-in air conditioning system and the ability for the wearer to pick up objects weighing as much as 60 kilograms (about 130 pounds).
Chiba University and Mitsubishi also teamed up to create a robotic drone, capable of working its way up stairs with traction legs, and mounted with a camera, so that the operator can easily maneuver it around. Mitsubishi also introduced a large robotic arm, capable of opening up valves.
Finally, Toshiba introduced an amphibious mobility robot, created for search and observation purposes inside water-filled reactor buildings – places that people would have a hard time navigating on their own. [See also: New Japanese Smartphone Has Built-In Radiation Detector]
Even with the introduction of such tools, Japanese government believes that it will still take some time – up to three decades – for the Fukushima station to be completely decommissioned.