AI News, Toshiba Prepares Amphibious Robot for Fukushima Reactor Pool

Toshiba Prepares Amphibious Robot for Fukushima Reactor Pool

There’s still a huge amount of radioactive waste cleanup to do at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

If you had to pick somewhere to eat a picnic lunch in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, inside the containment building of reactor 3 probably wouldn’t be at the top of your list, but it also wouldn’t be at the very bottom.

The radiation inside the reactor 3 building isn’t as bad as inside reactor 1, but it’s still enough to prevent humans from working there long term.

This is a problem, because there are a bunch of spent fuel rods in the reactor 3 swimming pool that really should be somewhere else, so Toshiba has come up with this hulking amphibious robot to perform the job remotely: Even though it’s been half a decade since the Fukushima disaster, robots still haven’t been able to make as much of an impact as it seems like they should.

Looking at the control interface, though, makes me cringe a little bit: “Training for workers to master the intricacies of the remote-control system is expected to begin next year,” says aJapan Times story.

The Robots Sent Into Fukushima Have 'Died'

The remote-controlled robots that were sent into the site of the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan have reportedly 'died', thanks to incredibly high amounts of leaked radioactive materials destroying their wiring.

As we reported in January, Tepco successfully removed 1,535 spent fuel-rod assemblies from the cooling pool in the reactor 4 building, which was a relatively easy job because that reactor had lower radiation levels, so human workers could oversee the retrieval process more closely.  Reactor 3, which is where our poor, recently deceased robots had been sent, contains far higher levels of radiation, and humans can’t get near it.

Meanwhile, the Fukushima site manager, Akiro Ono, admitted that he was 'deeply worried' that the storage tanks will leak radioactive water into the sea if they can’t figure out how to get everything cleaned up in time.  It’s not yet clear if better, stronger robots are the answer to cleaning up the Reactor 3 building, it could be that the technology to build robots that are resistant to such high levels of radiation doesn’t actually exist, and the Tepco researchers will have to come up with some other solution.  What we do know is this problem isn’t going away any time soon, and if leakages occur, it will affect us all, so all we can do is hope that the science will come through.

Swimming robot probes Fukushima reactor to find melted fuel

said the robot, nicknamed 'the Little Sunfish,' successfully completed the day's work inside the primary containment vessel of the Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima, which was destroyed by a massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

'The damage to the structures was caused by the melted fuel or its heat,' Kimoto told a late-night news conference held nine hours after the probe ended its exploration earlier in the day.

It was on a mission to study the damage and find the fuel that experts say has melted, breached the core and mostly fallen to the bottom of the primary containment chamber, where it has been submerged by highly radioactive water as deep as 6 meters (20 feet).

The robot discovered that a grate platform that is supposed to be below the reactor core was missing and apparently was knocked down by melted fuel and other materials that fell from above, and that parts of a safety system called a control rod drive were also missing.

Scientists need to know the fuel's exact location and understand the structural damage in each of the three wrecked reactors to work out the safest and most efficient way to remove the fuel.

Cleaner robot pulled from Fukushima reactor due to radiation

It was the first time a robot has entered the chamber inside the Unit 2 reactor since a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami critically damaged the Fukushima Da-ichi nuclear plant.

TEPCO needs to know the melted fuel's exact location and condition and other structural damage in each of the three wrecked reactors to figure out the best and safest ways to remove the fuel.

The outcome means the second robot will encounter more obstacles and have less time than expected for examination on its mission, currently planned for later this month, though Thursday's results may cause a delay.

The cleaner's two-hour endurance roughly matches an estimated radiation of 650 Sieverts per hour based on noise analysis of the images transmitted by the robot-mounted cameras.

Kimoto said the noise-based radiation analysis of the Unit 2's condition showed a spike in radioactivity along a connecting bridge used to slide control rods in and out, a sign of a nearby source of high radioactivity, while levels were much lower in areas underneath the core, the opposite of what would normally be the case.

Images recently captured from inside the chamber showed damage and structures coated with molten material, possibly mixed with melted nuclear fuel, and part of a disc platform hanging below the core that had been melted through.

Six years after Fukushima, robots finally find reactors' melted uranium fuel

FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT, Japan (NYTIMES) - Four engineers hunched before a bank of monitors, one holding what looked like a game controller.

But the newer version, called the Mini-Manbo, or 'little sunfish,' was made of radiation-hardened materials with a sensor to help it avoid dangerous hot spots in the plant's flooded reactor buildings.

There, the robot beamed back video of a gaping hole at the bottom of the reactor and, on the floor beneath it, clumps of what looked like solidified lava: the first images ever taken of the plant's melted uranium fuel.

The discovery in July at Unit 3, and similar successes this year in locating the fuel of the plant's other two ruined reactors, mark what Japanese officials hope will prove to be a turning point in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.

Their uranium fuel rods liquefied like candle wax, dripping to the bottom of the reactor vessels in a molten mass hot enough to burn through the steel walls and even penetrate the concrete floors below.

No one knew for sure exactly how far those molten fuel cores had travelled before desperate plant workers - later celebrated as the 'Fukushima Fifty' - were able to cool them again by pumping water into the reactor buildings.

Six and a half years after the accident spewed radiation over northern Japan, and at one point seemed to endanger Tokyo, the officials hope to persuade a sceptical world that the plant has moved out of post-disaster crisis mode and into something much less threatening: cleanup.

About 7,000 people work here, building new water storage tanks, moving radioactive debris to a new disposal site, and erecting enormous scaffoldings over reactor buildings torn apart by the huge hydrogen explosions that occurred during the accident.

In September, the prime minister's office set a target date of 2021 - the 10th anniversary of the disaster - for the next significant stage, when workers begin extracting the melted fuel from at least one of the three destroyed reactors, though they have yet to choose which one.

US$100 million research centre has been built nearby to help scientists and engineers develop a new generation of robots to enter the reactor buildings and scoop up the melted fuel.

(A dose of 1 sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness in a human.) The bottom of the reactor looked like a collection of huge bolts - the access points for control rods used to speed up and slow down the nuclear reaction inside a healthy reactor.

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